How to Improve Site Speed on Desktops and Mobile Devices

People want results fast. Who has the time to sit around waiting for a site to load? If it takes more than a few seconds, we’ll just find the information we seek from a different, faster site.

With decreasing attention spans and more distractions and information available than ever, it’s vital that site owners improve site speed so that they can increase their page views, keep visitors engaged, and provide fluid user experiences.

Two popular ways of improving site speed are employing Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to load your site files quickly, and optimizing your website images. Using Jetpack’s built-in Image CDN and Lazy Loading Images can greatly decrease your loading times, but there are other ways to improve site speed and provide a better overall experience for your fans on desktops and mobile devices as well.

Today we’ll be exploring a few of these methods in more detail. Read on for more!

Begin by benchmarking your website

Before you implement site speed optimizations, you should benchmark your website. This gives you an idea of what your site’s current load times are, and allows you to gauge how optimizations impact your site speed.

GTMetrix is a reliable tool for testing your site speed, as it combines results from YSlow and Google’s PageSpeed to give you a detailed overview of your loading times. After the analyzer runs, it provides you with performance scores from each test, as well as page details that include indicators such as load time and total page size.

A sample performance report

Once you receive your base results, you can determine how to proceed.

Try out different tools

Jetpack users can test various free plugins that allow you to implement speed improvements with very little hassle.

Enable a caching plugin

WordPress content is generated dynamically. Every time someone visits a page on your site, its content is generated from scratch. Trying a reputable caching plugin will help speed up this process.

One such plugin is WP Super Cache

The right plugin will generate static versions of your dynamic pages to serve to your site visitors, including those who aren’t logged in, those who have not commented on a post, or anyone who has not viewed password protected content.

Manage your asset files

Modern websites make extensive use of CSS and JavaScript to enhance user experiences. These CSS and JavaScript files can become quite large, especially if they are handling things like mobile responsiveness and custom front end functionality. So, they can end up negatively affecting your site speed.

Minification is the act of removing all unnecessary characters from CSS or JavaScript files while maintaining functionality. It’s a useful technique that you can use to optimize these files. Unnecessary characters include white space characters (spaces and tabs) and line or carriage returns.

Certain plugins were designed specifically to clean up code. Some tools even allow you to minify JavaScript and CSS files, cache those files (in case you aren’t already using page caching), and minify HTML.

Prioritize mobile

A StoneTemple report revealed that 63 percent of all internet traffic in the United States comes from mobile devices, and that this figure will likely reach 70 percent by the end of 2018. This underscores the increasing importance of good mobile user experiences.

For this reason, Google released the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project. As stated on the AMP website, “AMP is an open-source library that provides a straightforward way to create web pages that are compelling, smooth, and load near instantaneously for users.”

You can enable AMP on your Jetpack site with the AMP for WordPress plugin. Once you install the plugin, it starts working immediately and automatically creates AMP posts and pages for your website. This AMP content can then be indexed by search engines and served to your mobile visitors.

Install the AMP plugin to improve mobile performance

This improvement won’t have a specific effect on the desktop version of your site, but will drastically improve the mobile version, creating a fast, smooth user experience for those browsing your site on their mobile devices.

Advanced speed improvements

Besides plugin-based solutions, there are a host of under-the-hood techniques to improve site speed. Here are two options that require a little more work upfront, but can lead to faster load times:

Review your existing plugins

The plugins you’re using might be causing any speed problems on your site. Two of the biggest causes of plugin-related speed issues are plugins that load every functionality at all times, and plugins that don’t selectively load asset files on demand.

Jetpack is an example of how to only load required plugin functionality. While it enables certain features by default, the Settings page allows you to configure which tools are always loaded on your site and which not.

Similarly, if a plugin contains CSS and JavaScript asset files, it’s important that the plugin only loads these files when necessary. If these files are loaded on every single page (instead of only when needed), they’ll adversely impact your page load times.

Knowing whether a plugin is affecting your site speed can be determined by measuring your site load times before installing any new plugins, then measuring again after a plugin is activated.

Divide longer content into separate pages

The more content that a page contains, the longer it will take to load. This is something that gets overlooked in favor of creating a better reader experience for visitors, or ranking higher with search engines (by creating longer and more in-depth content).

Jetpack allows you to split a long article into multiple pages, which will then divide your content (and load times) across the number of pages that you dictate. To do so, you can add a special <––nextpage––> tag within your article. This tag will split the article content into a separate page at the point of each next page tag.

The next tag in action

A little work goes a long way

The above options are a few of the more common ways to speed up a site. As a site owner, measuring your site speeds before and after implementing any change is a great way to find and repair problems before they impact user experiences.

Have you used any of these tips, or do you have any others that you want to share? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you!

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Comments

  1. Mircea G. says:

    Thanks for the post Jonathan! Using already Photon and W3 Total Cache and it’s a big improvement. I must try the lazy loading images to see the results.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I like the idea of diving longer content into many pages so that it not only loads quick but also makes a good impact on the reader’s mind that you’ve gone deeper in the subject matter.

    Like

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