Key Techniques to Improve Website Performance
Shreya Bose, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack - September 15, 2021
In a digitally-driven world, a company’s website often makes the first impression. Customers are quick to judge an organization by its website. In fact, customers decide if they like a website within 50 milliseconds of visiting it.
With competing websites ready to welcome users at any time, the slightest oversight in ensuring optimal site performance can lead to loss of traffic and revenue. To prevent such a scenario, this article will list a few guidelines for website developers and testers. These guidelines will cover all significant bases required to improve website performance and provide positive user experiences.
How to improve website performance
- Invest in Design
38% of people will stop engaging with a website if they don’t like the content or layout. Invest in a good design team that knows the basics of combining functionality with visual appeal. The website should be easily navigable and look good at the same time.
Keep things minimal. Use dropdown menus and hamburger menus to reduce clutter, especially on mobile screens with limited space. Ensure that the most important links (product catalog, Cart, FAQs, Help, Contact) are easy to find without much scrolling. Don’t force customers to click through a series of links to get what they need.
As far as possible, try to include dynamic elements such as image carousel, animated snippets, videos, etc. Keep visitors’ eyes entertained while giving them the information they are looking for.
When it comes to text, keep it short and to the point. No one has the patience to read through long-winded paragraphs. Use short sentences, frequent paragraph breaks, and prioritize brevity to get the point across.
- Ensure cross-browser and cross-device compatibility
A website might be incredibly designed with lightning-fast page load speed and offering exceptional products and services. However, if a customer cannot access the site on their browser, device, or OS of choice, none of that matters. Developers and stakeholders cannot afford to let their site be incompatible with significant browsers, browser versions, devices, or platforms in widespread usage. The only way to ensure full compatibility is to run Cross Browser Testing and cross-device testing on real browsers and devices.
Testers need to check how the website renders and operates in real user conditions, for which they need to test on multiple unique browser-device-OS combinations. With close to 63,000 possible browser-platform-device combinations in popular usage, QA teams need access to a massive on-premise device lab (constantly updated with newer devices) to perform satisfactory cross browser compatibility testing.
In the absence of an in-house device lab, testers can use BrowserStack’s cloud-based infrastructure hosting of 2000+ real browsers and devices. Be it manual testing or automated Selenium testing, testers can use BrowserStack to get 100% accurate results in real-world circumstances. Testers can also leverage Cypress testing on 30+ real browser versions.
- Choose a Robust Web Hosting Plan
It makes sense for a new website to choose a standard hosting plan. They are low-cost and designed specifically to cater to starter websites. Generally, they are built to support simple websites with a few static elements. They work fine if a site is not updated too often, especially with more advanced elements.
However, for any website to remain relevant, it must be updated and modified to remain attractive and relevant. New content, images, videos, animated gifs, etc. To keep up with these changes, stakeholders must upgrade their web hosting plan to a more potent option that can accommodate and effortlessly render frequent changes.
Doing so will provide a positive user experience and keep the site SEO compliant (frequent updates help boost a site’s rankings).
- Optimize website speed
One might think that a few seconds of delayed page speed is no big deal, but a one-second delay leads to 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and a 7% loss in conversions. Optimizing a website for maximum speed should be a major priority for web developers and testers.
To identify precisely how fast a page is loading across various browsers and devices, devs and QAs can use SpeedLab, a free tool from BrowserStack. It is designed for running website speed tests on multiple real browser-device combinations. Simply enter the URL, and the tool will check site speed across a range of widely used device-browser combinations.
- Reduce HTTP Requests
Every component required to render a web page fully generates an HTTP request to the server. Therefore, if ten CSS files are necessary, then ten HTTP GET requests would be generated for a single page. Obviously, more HTTP requests will slow down website performance.
To reduce the HTTP request overhead, devs can combine files, particularly CSS and JS files. They can also use CSS sprites – combining smaller images into one big image. Simply adjust the background-position CSS attribute to display the required image.
Essentially, do whatever is possible to reduce HTTP requests for a web page to load faster without compromising on quality.
Browsers, by default, cache external JS and CSS files. If someone navigates away from a page, they will already have stylesheets and JS files cached on their browser, eliminating the time needed to download them again.
Using inline CSS and JS prevents this action from occurring, which will slow down web performance unnecessarily.
- Decentralize loading of website assets and features
User third-party web services to load some of the site assets and features. This reduces the burden on a single web server because it shares the bundle of page components with another one.
For example, use Flickr to render images, Feedburner to manage RSS feeds, etc. However, be mindful of the implication of letting third-party services manage website data. This approach is not recommended when dealing with sensitive information (customer identification data, financial data, etc.)
- Keep an eye on web server performance
The web server is what runs the show. It sends and receives HTTP requests and responses that serve the correct page components and ensure the site does what it is meant to. Naturally, monitoring web server performance is key to ensuring that the website is working at peak levels.
Check web server stats as frequently as humanly possible. If performance levels dip, make whatever changes are necessary. Benchmark performance before and after implementing optimization measures to make sure that efforts are actually yielding results.
Benchmarking is also necessary to determine if the server needs an upgrade or if the site needs to migrate to another server. As mentioned before, when the website updates, its current server may be ill-equipped to handle more elements, higher traffic, and other aspects of its day-to-day functioning.
Knowing how to improve website performance is a pivotal part of website development. Given the rate of competition, website creation and publication is no longer a one-and-done deal. Consistent optimization is mandatory for a site to stay on top of its competition and keep users happy enough to keep coming back. Use the pointers in this article to start with attempts to improve website performance, and give a site its best shot at success.