Important Tips for Optimizing ECommerce Site Speeds

ecommerce optimizationWe have come a long way from the days when accessing ecommerce and using ecommerce sites was a chore. Today, faster internet connectivity and better ecommerce platforms, like Joomla paGO Commerce, have made it easier to design user-friendly sites that are faster, more robust and infinitely more functional than in the early days of the web.

However, despite the myriad of improvements we have witnessed, there are still e-commerce sites that are well behind the curve in terms of page load speed. Failure in this area often translates to poor sales performance. A two-second delay is sufficient for a typical web user to bounce and head straight for the competition.

Is page load time really important to you bottom line?

Before this piece takes a look at ways you can increase the speed of your ecommerce site you might need a little convincing that it is important. If so check out this infographic courtesy of KissMetrics.

how performance affects shopping behavior

Clearly a three-second load time is sufficient for a typical web user to bounce and head straight for the competition. So let’s jump into some practical tips that you can go away an implement to reduce your bounce rates and improve your conversions.

Use the right hosting package for your business

“You need to understand the profile of your traffic. It is vital when choosing the right web hosting package,” says Brendan Wilde at Umbrellar, the leading web hosting company in New Zealand. “Many e-tailers remain on the entry level hosting they began the business on for years after launch. As your business evolves and grows so should your hosting.”

Keep page size in check

All the elements of a page contribute to the overall load weight; Javascript, CSS and Images. You should build your pages with load time in mind. Large images, for instance, will slow the load speed. To check the size of a page simply save it as an archive folder from your browser and see how many kbs it is.

Even if richer graphics are important for your revenue generation, you need to strike a balance between using such graphics and alienating your chronically impatient customer base.

Invest in a content delivery network

A content delivery network (CDN) allows the content of your webpage to be cached in different servers around the world for delivery to users closest to that server. This means that your site will load at very similar speeds for users in Asia, America and Africa. If you have a global ecommerce site then a CDN is pretty much a must.

Embrace data compression

Software, such as GZip, can be used to reduce the amount of data that is sent to a browser. This server-side compression is completed before the data is returned to the client. Doing this requires developer expertise, as changes will be needed in the server configuration files.

Avoid using images without specified dimensions

If you don’t specify heights and widths for images browsers can’t create placeholders for them and this will mean the entire image loading first before the rest of the content can proceed. This significantly reduces site load speed efficiency on e-commerce. Images are vital to the UX. Using specific dimensions for your images also ensures that different device resolutions can render the images correctly.

Embrace ecommerce platform optimisation solutions

Irrespective of whether you are doing your business on a hosted or licensed platform, there are often different configurations to improve your page load times. Minor tweaks can provide you with significant gains. On Magento for example, the default configuration supports a content delivery network, file compression and other speed enhancements. In Joomla, there are global and plugin configuration options for caching and compression. There is a useful guide on Siteground here.

Reduce the number of server round trips

You can significantly reduce the number of server round trips by combining files. For instance, instead of building multiple separate JavaScript files, you should combine them all into a single. This will ensure the browser makes one request instead of making multiple trips. CSS Sprites is just one of the multiple solutions that can help you achieve CSS efficiency.

Keep an eye on site speed

One way to ensure your customers are not tapping their fingers waiting for your site to load is to check load speed regularly. If you page takes more than 4 seconds to load, you are doing something wrong. 4 seconds feels like a very short time in real life, but on the internet, it is an eternity!

site speed

Thankfully, there are lots of options out there to help you to check your site load speed. Google’s PageSpeed Insights is the default tool for many people, but Pingdom and Yahoo’s YSlow are also decent shouts. With Google’s PageSpeed Insights, you need to ensure your site’s score is close to 85. A score of 85 or higher means your ecommerce site is performing as well as big hitters like Amazon.

Getting your site loading fast means getting a lot of things right. It isn’t a choice, though, it is a necessity.

James Cummings
James Cummings is a Business Psychologist and Director at Daily Posts, a leading UK writing company. He works with ecommerce companies to improve their bottom line through powerful web copy, search strategies and user-centred design.

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