When was the last time that you checked your website’s speed? Site speed is a big factor in landing and keeping people on your website. In fact, just one second of loading delay decreases conversions, page views, and customer satisfaction! Best practices are for sites to load in under 1.3 seconds.

Go check your site now, I’ll wait…

If it loaded quickly, I want you to try something else. Open it in a private window or check your site with a tool, like Pingdom. Since you visit your site often, your computer has a stored version of your site guaranteeing that it will load quickly for you. Loading it in a private window will show you how it loads to a new visitor.

If it’s not as fast as it should be, there are some adjustments that you can make to website to make it load faster.

Image optimization

The #1 issue that I see when it comes to speed is images that aren’t optimized for web.

We all want crisp, clean images, so it seems logical that large images would be necessary. However, compressed images look the same as a raw image without the site slowdown.

This is an easy fix and there are a number websites out there that can help you to compress images for free.

Make sure that you upload image relative to the size that they need to be. Header images need to be larger than thumbnails. Make sure to consider the purpose when making adjustments.

Another thing to consider is the file type. Aim to upload images in jpeg when possible unless you need transparency then use PNGs.

Hosting Provider

An outside factor that can contribute to slow site speed is your hosting provider. If you have been using free (or cheap) web-hosting, then you are probably sharing server resources with loads of other websites. When that happens, your site doesn’t get as many resources as it needs to run efficiently and therefore slows down.

Look for a hosting provider, like Classic City Consulting, that can manage your account monthly, make sure that it is backed-up, and has more resources being allocated to your site to keep it running efficiently. Also check that they provide server-side caching, like WP Engine or Kinsta, which removes the strain on servers by caching static content.

Minify Files

Your web developer can help you with this one! The gist is that the code that makes up your website has a lot of unnecessary characters that, when eliminated, can slightly increase your site speed.

Online tools

Elegant Themes put together a list of tools that you can use to minify your files:

Make sure to combine files into the same file (i.e. – all CSS into the same file).

WordPress Plugins

In addition to the online tools, there are WordPress plugins that can be installed to do this.

Some of these tools also provide all-in-one site optimization including caching and file compression

Host Video Externally

Video is a great tool to use on your site whether it’s for product demonstration, testimonials, or for engaging content. While it may be easy to just upload a file straight to your site, that is a guaranteed way to slow your site.

Using outside video hosting sites like Google or Vimeo and then embedding the link into your site is the way to go. If you have a big video on your server, every time someone hits your website it uses a lot of your resources. This way you can use YouTube’s resources, and they are set-up for it.

To make sure that the embedded video also doesn’t affect site speed, use lightboxes for videos. This will reduce the unnecessary server requests (like ads) and speed up your site.

Review Third-Party Tools

Third-party tools that you love and rely on may also be causing you issues. Chatbots, Google Analytics, back-up and security tools, social sharing tools, and integrated social media platforms working together can slow down your site.

While your server is trying to pull all the information from the other servers, your website visitor is impatiently waiting for the homepage to load. You can use tools like Pingdom to identify exactly what is causing the slowdown and either adjust or eliminate tools as needed.

It’s nice to have your Instagram feed on your homepage, but if they are causing people to bounce away from your site, it may be time to move it elsewhere.

Check Plugins

Deleting any unused plugins is always a good way to keep your site securing and running smoothly, but sometimes active plugin can slow down the site. One of our favorite plugins,  Ninja Forms, can slow down sites because the plugin loads it’s scripts and styles on every page – whether the form is present or not. This could be a potential issue with any plugin you have installed and activated.

There are some known culprits, but you can also install a plugin (we see the irony) that will evaluate your plugins. Hummingbird is one such plugin that will do the job.

Current PHP + WordPress Versions

Keeping things up-to-date is always a good move in making sure that your website is running efficiently.  One factor that you may overlook, because it can be a bit nerve-racking to consider updating, is your websites’ version of PHP. From version 5.6 to 7.2, page speed has drastically increased.

There was a major WordPress update in December 2018 and a number of newer versions since then. Making sure that your plugins are compatible with the newest version of WordPress and the newest versions of PHP is essential in keeping your site up and running quickly.

Conclusion

There are a lot of factors that go into website speed! Making sure that you are attending to each of the big offenders will help to increase site traffic, reduce your bounce rate, and create a user-experience that you are proud of. While some of these you can do on your own, you may need to speak to your development team to handles items like minifying files and updating versions of WordPress and PHP. Check your site often and don’t get complacent. If everything looks today, check again next quarter to see if any updates affected it.

There are some beautiful websites out there – and yours very well could be one of those.  It is an immersive, engaging experience, pleasing to the eye and formatted well across different types of devices.  Your developer tossed around terms like “UI” and “UX” during the design process for you to think more critically about your brand new website. Now that it’s live, customers should be buying even more of your products, right? You should be closing a lot of new deals, right?

User Experience (UX) is what makes a site easy to use.

User experience is the ability for a user or customer to be able to complete their intended action with ease and efficiency. Users expect a site to function in a particular manner. For example, when you head over to Amazon.com, you expect to be able to find items, add them to your cart, then checkout. If that three-step process wasn’t simple, Amazon would lose customers en mass. It’s the similarity between checkout on Amazon, Walmart, or Target that makes each site easy to use.

You have to lay out your site in a familiar structure that provides a clear path to all your customer’s end goals. Brand-consciousness can be communicated with styling (like font choice or color palette) to ensure people know it’s your business and not someone else’s.  But the process of purchasing a product is the same everywhere: search, add, pay.

You’ll see that on one product screen, you can: see multiple views of the Porg, read a quick description, determine its Prime eligibility , assess its overall rating, and add it to your cart. Everything a person might need to make a purchase decision is right there, one stop.

Customers buy the same product for different reasons.

But, the issue here lies in the fact you have different types of customers that might take different routes to buy products. How on earth do you sell the same product to completely different people with varying needs and motivations? Can’t you just point people to your global Shop page and call it a day? No. People don’t want to to search to find the one thing they want – they want you to anticipate what they want.

Apple is a perfect example of this. As we all know, Apple sells lots of different products: laptops, desktops, phones, earbuds, tablets and much more. However, my needs as a business owner versus the needs of an elementary teacher are very different. If we’re shopping for a computer, both the teacher and I might buy the exact same laptop model, but how we made the choice to spend our money is not the same.

The images and text immediately help customers recognize themselves on your site. They feel welcome because it is obvious that you thoughts of them when building it: the busy workplace professional and the educator or parent.

The images and text immediately help customers recognize themselves on your site. They feel welcome because it is obvious that you thoughts of them when building it: the busy workplace professional and the educator or parent.

Landing pages show your customer you anticipated their needs.

Apple has created two completely different landing pages for Business and Education. They are selling the same products but  are talking about them differently. Separate landing pages address separate audiences. They are tailored to show off different aspects of the product that might be important from different perspective.  In this case, they are talking to two different verticals of consumers, Business and Education. They have simultaneously expanded their audience and made each niche feel welcome.

You can do this too. First, define your main customers – boil it down to the basics: age, gender, occupation, and location. Figure out why these “buckets” of people visit your website and want to purchase. Record how each type of customer walks through the sales process and, voila! Now, convert that buying journey into a landing page.  Good design will lead the targeted customer “bucket” to make the purchase.

Successful design is tailored to the consumer, not the company.

Success boils down to content and process.  You have to know how your users (i.e. customers) think. Know their motivations and objections.  Know the steps that contribute to their buying decision (process), and provide the right info to overcome their objections (content).

If you do the hard work to learn your consumers, then your site can use layout design, text, and images (i.e. UX) to successfully land sales.  The goal is to make a crystal clear path of the actions for your user. If it’s filling out a contact form, don’t bury it at the bottom of the page.  If you want people to call you, make sure your phone number is in a high-visibility place. (As a bonus, get a special phone number so you know who is calling from the website versus who is calling from your business card). If you want people to buy a product, collect all the relevant details into a single view.

The term User Experience says it all: created by you, for the customer, with clear design to compel action.

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