I'm frequently asked about how to improve website performance and I always say there are three elements that one must first consider - Speed, Conversion, and Responsiveness.
A small business website design doesn't stop at having colorful images and a cool layout. In fact, a lot of pretty websites don't perform well.
I tend to lean towards keeping a website simple and thinking about how helpful and useful a website will be when a visitor decides to check it out.
"An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises." - Mae West
In this article, I'm going to talk about how to improve website performance and how making even little tweaks to your small business website design can really impact performance.
1. Website Speed
Why is speed so important? Simple, website speed drives conversions and sales.
It's like your daily commute - the faster you get to your destination, the higher chances of getting things done and the slower the commute is, the more time, money, and energy are wasted.
Oh yes! Your website only has a few seconds to make a really good and lasting impression. A few seconds can bring in more sales or repel customers away.
In other words, website users are impatient and there's nothing you can do about it other than making sure your website is performing at its best.
So how do you improve website performance when it comes to speed? Let's take a look.
Minimum HTTP Requests Translate to Maximum User Experience
First of all, what in the world is HTTP?
HTTP stands for "Hypertext Transfer Protocol". This protocol happens when your computer and a server transfer files to one another. These files are pages, pictures, stylesheets, scripts, Flash, etc.
According to Yahoo,
80% of the end-user response time is spent on the front-end. Most of this time is tied up in downloading all the components in the page: images, stylesheets, scripts, Flash, etc. Reducing the number of components in turn reduces the number of HTTP requests required to render the page. This is the key to faster pages.
How do you improve this? Here a couple easy steps:
- Make your website simple - The page design should be simple. Use one or two images and text.
- Combine Elements Together - Pile all scripts into one and combine all CSS into a single sheet.
Images and CSS Sprite Make a Great Combo
Remember that the number of images plays a huge role in the speed of a website. The more images your website has the more "roundtrips" the server takes to get all the resources needed. What's the workaround? Use Sprites.
Sprites are a single image that combines all background images. They help minimize the following:
- Server setbacks from roundtrips due to downloads.
- Request overhead.
- The total number of bytes a page downloads.
Online tools that can help you with this task:
According to Yahoo, approximately 90% of today's Internet traffic travels through browsers that support gzip which is why compressing is a great way to ease website latency.
Images on your website can take up a ton of space. Optimizing and compressing them (without impacting image quality) can help you see a huge performance increase too.
Online tools for HTML compression:
Tools for CSS compression:
Tools for Image compression:
Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
Another way for you to improve website performance in terms of speed is to use a CDN.
Content Delivery Network refers to a group of servers spread in multiple locations around the world which work together to shrink file sizes and send files faster.
Top CDN service providers:
Many web hosting providers offer a CDN with their services. Sometimes it's included and other times it might be an additional cost.
Either way, you might want to check with your web host to see how they can help.
Use "Expires" Headers to Support Browser Caching
Many small business website designs are often full of files like stylesheets, scripts, and images.
Anytime someone visits a website, his or her browser stores a ton of these files onto that person's hard drive. This reduces the HTTP requests frequency and makes browsing faster on the next visit.
Those files have an expiration date in the header known as “expires” headers. By default, that expiration date could be set to 24 hours.
Things to consider about this rule:
Static components – Set a “Never expire” policy far into the future for images, Flash, scripts, and stylesheets.
Dynamic component – Use a cache-control header to help the browser with conditional requests.
Activate HTTP Keep-Alive Response
Keep-alive is a handshake between a web browser and a server to hold the same connection open for sending and receiving multiple files. It helps to speed up connections because your processor, network, and memory aren't stressed too much.
Here are two common ways of enabling keep-alive:
- Apache Optimization
- HTTP Keep-Alive on Window Servers
Website Speed Testing Tools
There are some great online tools that can analyze the speed of your website. These tools are very helpful in deciding if your website needs some tweaking. Here are a few you might want to bookmark.
2. Website Conversion
Another important element of website performance is conversion.
According to Google, "In Analytics, a conversion is the completion of an activity that is important to the success of your business, such as a completed sign up for your email newsletter (a Goal conversion) or a purchase (a Transaction, sometimes called an E-commerce conversion)."
Website goals vary depending on the industry, size of the business, and purpose of the business. Here are some examples:
- A successful purchase
- Form submission
- Reaching a particular page
After handling the speed issue, it's a perfect time to work on getting your website visitors to click that sign-up or buy button.
Traffic is useless if a website isn't converting visitors into customers!
13 Simple Ways to Improve Website Conversion
- You must have an email opt-in form, and ask for as little information as necessary to save time. The easier you make it for someone to opt-in the better.
- Always include a refund or return policy on all purchases to reduce purchase risks and increase sales. The more you can mitigate risk for the customer, the higher likelihood they will take the next step.
- Your calls-to-action (CTA) should have strong and compelling action verbs like "Grab your copy now!" and "Book a flight now!". Use CTA buttons instead of links and make them fun and engaging.
- Show your visitors online testimonials of current and past clients to build legitimacy and consumer trust. If you've been working on your online reputation management then have links to review sites on your website (check out number 10 below too).
- Accurately state the FAB (Features-Advantages-Benefits) of your products and services on your website. What's in it for your site visitors to become customers?
- Use videos on your site about your products and services to build stronger rapport, credibility, and engagement. People love watching videos!
- If you are using Pay-per-click advertising make sure your visitors are routed to a dedicated landing page when they click an ad. You want to make sure there is consistency and relevancy between your paid ads and where a visitor ends up on your website.
- For added social proof don't forget to include links to your business social media profiles like Facebook and Twitter.
- Offer various payment options like Paypal, debit or credit card, etc.
- Include online reviews on your website because they are a deciding force for customer purchase decisions.
- Use high-quality, professional images to create a strong and credible impression for your brand.
- Don't forget the content and copywriting on your website. It should speak to your ideal clients - their problems, their goals/dreams, and what's important to them.
- Always include your company contact information, like your business phone number, address, and email (preferably in the footer of your website).
3. Website Responsiveness
A responsive web design (RWD) is as important as speed and conversion. In an age of fast-changing screens, a website has to stay afloat by adapting to these shifts.
It is important to have a responsive small business website because...
- Mobile usage continues to increase
- Social media increases mobile visitors
- Responsive sites improve SEO rankings
- Responsive sites provide a better user experience (UX)
Let me discuss a few simple tips on how to improve website performance in terms of responsiveness.
Use One of the Many Great Content Management Systems or Website Builders
Most small businesses don't need a completely custom built website. If that's the case for you, then I'd highly recommend using one of the many proven content management systems or website builders to create your website.
Why? Because they have a lot of great responsive features built in.
Here are a few to consider:
- WordPress: This is one of the most popular content management systems on the web. You can create very sophisticated websites with WordPress if you need to and the options for customization are pretty much unlimited.
If you are spending time and effort on digital marketing like SEO and content marketing I think WordPress is the way to go. WordPress does require a little more hand-holding and routine maintenance, so you need to be prepared to manage that or pay someone to do it.
- Duda: This is a great website builder with many options for customization. You can build an awesome looking site and one that performs very well. We've built some great sites on Duda that work well for our clients.
Build a Mobile-First Design
Always prioritize building a website that is mobile-friendly then scale up to tablet and desktop designs. Remember that if the text or image is easy to view on a mobile then you shouldn’t have any issues with other devices.
Easy Navigation is a Must
A responsive website should be easy to navigate.
Your menus should be easy to locate and use. If it's not easy for visitors to find and access what they are looking for your conversions will suffer.
Optimize Text, Images & Buttons for Mobile Devices
Mobile devices are a lot simpler than desktops. If you want your website to work perfectly on all types of screens and devices, make sure your text, images, and buttons are easy to read, see, and select on mobile.
A Clean Design is A Great Design
Overall, a simple website design will work well on any type of screen. The fewer complications the better. Here are my recommendations:
- Use Grids instead of complicated Carousels for images.
- Use Simple Scrolling instead of Scrolljacking (when you repurpose the scroll wheel or motion for something other than moving up or down the page)
- Keep it simple and don't forget about easy navigation that I mentioned above.
I hope you found these tips helpful and allow you to improve your websites performance.
A small business website design can improve tremendously if speed, conversion, and responsiveness are prioritized.
So what do you think? Feel free to comment below or share.
Need more lead generation tips? Check out our entire Ultimate Guide to Lead Generation.
Header image courtesy of Pexels.com.