Why is site speed important? Well, where to start. Firstly, many studies have shown in multiple industries that a 1 second increase in page load time will result in a 1-3% increase in conversion rate.
That means the slightest tweak could jump your sales, while also improving customer’s satisfaction while on the site.
Secondly, Google openly admits that speed is a ranking factor, while this will obviously be a more key ranking factor on mobile where we are even more impatient. But whether you are looking at it from the search engine perspective or the user perspective, either way, it can only be a positive to improve the speed of your site.
Before you ask, I’m not a big fan of the Google Page Speed Tool. It will ask you to fix things which aren’t always possible. It also doesn’t reflect actual page speed, it just looks for factors which could be affecting the speed. In other words, a site might have a good score on the test, yet take an incredibly long amount of time, and vice versa.
Once you have run GT Metrix, make sure to save the scores, page load time, total page size and requests in an excel sheet. This is so you can document the changes as you try to improve the site. Beyond visibility on actual improvements, it will also help you to identify which areas had the greatest affect, for future reference.
90% of the time, a site can be improved through image optimisation. You will be blown away by the amount of times a simple check will illustrate a huge number of images haven’t been compressed. I dealt with a site that had all the images at around 1.5mb. A quick fix on this brought them all down to 100kb. I normally use Photoshop and “save for web” to compress them, however you could also complete a bulk load of images on https://kraken.io/.
Other things you will want to look out for are what format it has been saved in (often best as compressed jpeg), no dimensions being highlighted and a massive killer is when images are uploaded to the site a certain size and are then rescaled. You should upload them at the exact size you want to use them in. People who use WordPress are often culpable of this action. You might in fact find that with the introduction of CSS3, you can design your logo or certain parts of your site as an effect, rather than an image. This will also allow Google to directly read the wording used.
This is a 5 second job that should already be done, however if it isn’t then you will be smiling in about 5 minutes time. In short, you will reduce loading time through Gzip compression, as the file size will be cut significantly without causing any noticeable differences to the end user.
This is so often ignored or overlooked, but font files can also be cut down quite a lot. Almost every site I deal with uses Font Awesome, and for good reason as it is amazing, however with the drastic number of icons available, you probably only need a few and all are being loaded. A quick switch to save them as SVGs will result in no additional requests (helping to bring down that metric we mentioned) and much less code.
If someone repeatedly visits the website, it seems ridiculous to expect them to load a page each time, especially as browser caching will allow their computer to temporarily store some data, which will speed up return visits. A quick look over your analytics tool will often highlight most customers don’t purchase on first visit (or at least with a lot of industries). Some form of research will take place, before they return and make the purchase. You therefore want to ensure that returning visitor has a fast site to load up.
The longer a site has been around for, the more superfluous coding there will be in the CSS file. You might want to have a bit of a cleanup and see if there is any code which has become obsolete. The CSS has to load before people will see your site, so this is a great place to look for ways to improve. You also might find the file isn’t compressed (especially if you use WordPress), however a quick visit to http://csscompressor.com/ will help out.