Slow Websites Slow Sales: Optimizing Ecommerce For Page Speed

The website is beautiful. The catalog is robust. The marketing is perfect.

So what might slow down sales? A slow ecommerce website itself.

Sales organizations don’t traditionally think about things like site speed, page speed, or time to first byte, and even less likely things like compression, minimization, and content distribution networks. But it matters in e-commerce, more than many organizations realize.

Google is, as usual, tailoring its robots to like what people like. People spend less time on slow sites, bounce sooner, convert less, and are less likely to return.

Site speed is a ranking factor in Google algorithms and Google is, as usual, tailoring its robots to like what people like. People spend less time on slow sites, bounce sooner, convert less, and are less likely to return or return as frequently, according to Google studies.

That makes slow ecommerce websites frowned upon by both search engines and shoppers. What can be done to please the robots and the people alike and help assure that an ecommerce website that doesn’t lose out on speed?

Understanding Site Speed

Less is more when it comes to page speed. Every webpage element comes with a load time and a site speed cost. So be sure the element has a proven benefit before you add it.

From the user’s perspective, site speed or page speed is how long it takes a web browser to display the website content.

What’s happening behind the scenes is that when a person visits a web page, the web browser is sending out a request to a server and the server is sending back all the content that’s supposed to be on the page. The more content to retrieve, the longer it takes.

Less is more when it comes to page speed. Every webpage element comes with a load time and a site speed cost. So be sure the element has a proven benefit before you add it. If you don’t add the element, the element can’t slow down the page.

There are a whole range of site speed and page speed factors, and Google itself will let you know what those factors are and how to take action. Some of the factors are very granular and technical, but there are also fixes that are easier to understand and implement.

Let’s look at a few of the simpler steps.

Steps For A Faster Ecommerce Website

Resizing Photos

Photos should never be larger than the space where they’ll appear.

In terms of results versus simplicity, there is no bigger improvement for site speed than making sure that photos are used judiciously and sized correctly. Photos are massive compared to text and most other web elements, and so photos have a massive effect on page speed. Photos should never be larger than the space where they’ll appear. Using a 1,200-pixel photo in a 100-pixel space creates a sizeable drain drain on site speed without actually making the photo look any better.

One Page, One Purpose

Staying focused on the purpose of the page helps you limit elements and increase page speed.

This is a bit on the philosophical side, but it ultimately will help page speed. Every page should have one reason for its existence and the design of the page should be targeted exclusively toward that reason. Staying focused on the purpose of the page helps you limit elements only to those that serve the purpose of the page, and therefore it’s less likely the page becomes overwhelmed with unneeded elements. Does your checkout page really need a chat module to distract the buyer out of completion? Does a product page need a video when you’re selling a pen? By minimizing the content on the page and organizing it around the page’s purpose, you will improve load time.

Lazy Loading

Photo loading is divided into chunks, unburdening the web page so it can load faster.

Lazy loading is another way to optimize photo usage for site speed and while it’s a little trickier because it involves coding, the payoff is big. With lazy loading, photos load as they come into view for a user instead of loading all at once. On a product catalog page with 60 photos, for example, only 20 might be immediately visible without scrolling. Those 20 would load immediately while the other 40 would load only as they come into view. Photo loading is divided into chunks, and some photos may not load at all if they don’t come into view, unburdening the web page so it can load faster.

Limit Your Tracking

Deliberate tracking and analytics is likely to make it easier to draw meaningful conclusions from the data — and will help page speed in the process.

Tracking and analytics code takes time to load, as well, slowing down web pages. Too much tracking and analytics can significantly affect a page’s performance, and it can also lead to so much data that it’s difficult or impossible to make meaning of the data. Choose a few key factors to track. Deliberate tracking and analytics is likely to make it easier to draw meaningful conclusions from the data — and will help page speed in the process.

Use Content Distribution Networks

We often don't think of load time in terms of physical distance, but the shorter the physical distrance, the shorter the load time.

We don’t often think of page speed in terms of physical distance, but geography matters. A Content Distribution Network (CDN) helps optimize geography so that when a web browser asks a server for content, the content literally has a shorter physical distance to travel. A CDN — popular ones include Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud — places intermediary servers between the user’s location and your server. The CDN has already requested and stored static content from your server, and so when the web browser asks for content, the content only has to travel from the CDN server, not all the way from your server. Many ecommerce platforms already have a Content Distribution Network built-in, even as simply as with a setting, and other times CDNs can be implemented by registering with a provider and adding code.

Other Photo Considerations

Optimizing page speed rests heavily on efficient use of photos since photos represent such a considerable portion of website data.

Yes, photos again. Optimizing page speed rests heavily on efficient use of photos since photos represent such a considerable portion of website data. 1. Use photos only when necessary. Elements like a gradient or a button can be images, but they can also be much smaller elements in terms of data if they’re simply HTML and CSS. 2. Limit the number of cross-sell and up-sell items. Each of these likely requires a photo, so each item is going to put more burden on the page. Shoppers may find too many recommended items overwhelming, anyway. 3. Optimize image formats. It’s often possible to cut an image size into a third or a quarter or less while creating only a negligible difference to the human eye. Photo optimization tools can be purchased, and graphics and creative staff often have insight into manually optimizing photos for the web.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that every element on a web page carries a burden on page speed, and a page that loads slowly will earn negative reactions from search engines and shoppers alike. It’s therefore important to be deliberate about what’s added to a web page, and to be as efficient as possible when an element is added. Often, less is more — any data that isn’t added to the web page can’t slow the page down.

Tags: ecommerce

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