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How can you optimise the speed of your e-commerce site?

14 Jun 2016

The development of better e-commerce technologies, growth of fibre broadband, and emergence of 4G mobile connectivity has improved the online buying experience in New Zealand, and around the world.

Today, there are a number of platforms that provide users with more dynamic, robust and interactive e-commerce experiences than ever before. It also means that the niches e-tailers serve are becoming increasingly established and competitive. To have that edge and succeed, website owners need to make good strategic decisions; because if they don’t someone else will.

One such edge that has become a game changer over recent years is website load speed. Users have become impatient and any site that does not meet the browsing speeds they expect, quickly become a forgotten and buried link in their browser history. 

If you aren’t totally convinced about the importance of site speed, then think about your own experiences – how have your expectations changed as broadband has improved? The KissMetrics infographic below provides some insight into just how important the speed of your site is when it comes to attracting visitors, converting customers, and getting repeat business.

A whopping 47% of shoppers expect your site to load in just 2 seconds, which is a huge increase from only 4% in 2006! After 3 seconds of tapping fingers and hanging around, 40% of shoppers will look for an alternative site; just 3 seconds!

No matter how established your brand is, customers will be impatient with a slow loading page. Now that we have established how important optimising the speed of your e-commerce site is, let’s get into some practical changes you can make on your e-commerce site.

Use the right hosting package

“Choosing the right hosting solution is a key strategic decision," says Brendan at Umbrellar, the largest domain name provider and web hosting company in New Zealand. “While standard shared hosting is still a good affordable entry point for many new and small websites, it doesn’t take long to grow to a point where at the least a low density hosting plan or VPS are a more appropriate solution, particularly when it comes to e-commerce." 

Use a Content Delivery Network

A content delivery network (CDN) is a potential solution to server response time. A CDN caches web pages in different servers around the world, and delivers content to users from the closest server. This means that a user in England will experience similar speeds on a site as a user in America, Brazil, and anywhere else. This is crucial if you are targeting different countries and territories.

Compress your HTML, Javascript and CSS files

Your code is read in a hierarchical way by browsers and resolved into pages. If there are multiple files the process can become cumbersome, and cause a drag in parsing and page load. Every time a new server request is made, a new layer of complexity is added to the queue.

Use a compression tool, such as GZip, to compress your HTML, Javascript and CSS files to facilitate faster loading of web pages; and use sprites or SVG.

Mind the size of your pages

Your e-commerce site may contain big images and even video graphics. Whilst they may be important to create the right impression, provide information and build visitor desire for your products, you have to balance the engagement side of user experience with the speed side of user experience. You should certainly ensure that all graphics and media are optimised for the web at the very least!

Large web pages will slow down page load speed. To check the size of a page save it as an archive folder from your browser and see how many kilobytes it is.

Use E-commerce platform optimisation solutions

There are many e-commerce platform optimisation solutions out there today that help you to improve your page load times by setting the correct configurations for your online profile. These solutions optimise your site based on factors like traffic, responsive design, and content delivery.

On Magento, for example, the default configuration supports a content delivery network, file compression and other speed enhancements. In Joomla there are global and plugin configuration options for caching and compression. Check out this useful guide on Siteground if your site is Joomla based.

Keep your HTML simple

Having a dozen or more unnecessary divs in your code will slow your page down. CSS resets target all common elements and enforce style resets on them. Make your HTML efficient, as CSS will have to reset the padding and margin of any extra div, and other superfluous code, costing your site precious resolution time.

Pre-define the dimensions of your Images

Specifying the dimensions of your images means that a browser can add a placeholder to the page and build the rest of the site around it in parallel with image download, rather than having to do so in series.

Pre-defined responsive image dimensions also ensure that the images are rendered correctly on different devices. If the correct size isn’t specified, your page may not be mobile friendly, and that is another emerging important factor in SEO rankings.

Optimising the speed of your e-commerce website is crucial to the success of your brand. Get it right and you’ll increase the chances converting a site visitor into a paying customer or lead.