Practical Ecommerce

10 Ways to Increase Ecommerce Site Speed

The download speed of ecommerce sites has greatly improved over the years because of the wider availability of faster Internet service. But many retailers still struggle with making their sites run quickly.

The unfortunate truth is that retailers can design a user-friendly site, but if it takes time to load, consumers will not likely shop there. By some accounts, even a 1-second delay can have a material impact on revenue for online retailers.

In this article, I will explain 10 ways to increase the speed of an ecommerce site.

1. Reduce Size of Page

The page size in measured in kilobytes. It includes all elements on a page — images, JavaScript, CSS. The smaller the page size, the better. Avoid embedding big objects or images on a page; build your pages by keeping load times in mind. Page size can be measured easily by saving the page on your computer as a web archive folder from the browser. Then measure the size of the folder.

Try to keep page load times to 3 seconds or less, unless your ecommerce site requires richer graphics to generate revenue. In that instance, find the right balance between losing shoppers due to slow load times versus gaining customers due to richer graphics.

2. Use a Content Delivery Network

If you have customers around the world, consider a content delivery network. It caches the content on servers located in different parts of the world, which reduces load times. This would help, say, a customer in Hong Kong, who could load a page from a server in China, versus hitting the master server in U.S.

3. Use Caching and In-memory Technology

Utilize caching or in-memory technologies to avoid accessing a database unnecessarily. These technologies can temporarily store in memory a full ecommerce product catalog, all customer information, site-search indexes, and other information, which would avoid calls on the database. The technology utilizes the RAM available on a server and stores data in it. Since input-output operations are typically 10 times faster on RAM than a hard disk, this helps improve performance.

4. Compress Data

Use Gzip or other compression software to reduce the size of the data sent to a browser. The compression is done on the server side, before returning data based on the client request. This requires changing server configuration files, which takes developer expertise. Before enabling data compression, however, make sure your shoppers do not use older browsers, such as Internet Explorer 4, as Gzip is not compatible.

5. Specify Image Dimensions

Specify height and width for images so that the browser can create placeholders for the images, to load the page and the images simultaneously. Retailers often create an image without specifying the dimensions of the image on the page. This forces the browser to load the image entirely before it can start another task, which takes more time.

Simple height and width attributes for each image makes the browser understand the size of the image and it can make room for the image while also loading other parts of the page. Additionally, automatically alter image sizes for different types of devices – laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

6. Optimize Platform Configuration

If you use an ecommerce platform — hosted or licensed — determine available configurations to improve page load times. Most platforms offer minor tweaks that can lead to significant gains. For example, the default configuration that comes with Magento supports file compression, a content delivery network, and other speed enhancements. A retailer’s Magento administrator can make these platform optimizations.

7. Use Fewer ‘Round Trips’

Minimize the number of “round trips” to the server by combining multiple files. For example, instead of accessing multiple JavaScript files separately, first combine them into a single file and then access the server. This forces the browser to make one request versus making multiple trips, which will reduce load times. There are several tools and techniques available to help with this, such as CSS Sprites, which enables the loading of multiple images in one request.

8. Monitor Site Speed

Check the speed of your ecommerce site periodically to proactively resolve issues. If a page is taking more than 3 seconds to load, it likely needs improving. There are many tools to measure and diagnose site speed. These include Pingdom, Yahoo’s YSlow, and Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

The examples below show the speed score of leading ecommerce sites using Google’s PageSpeed Insights from a laptop. A score of 85 and higher means that the site is performing well. Only Ebay appears to meet this threshold, however, with Overstock and Amazon close behind.

  • Amazon.com: 83/100
  • Ebay.com: 86/100
  • Walmart.com: 37/100
  • Staples.com: 54/100
  • Target.com: 69/100
  • Zulily.com: 72/100
  • Overstock.com: 84/100
  • Newegg.com: 66/100
  • Nordstrom.com: 75/100
  • Gilt.com: 63/100

Pingdom can monitor site speed, and help diagnose problems.

Pingdom can monitor site speed, and help diagnose problems.

9. Avoid Redirects

Minimize redirects on your site if you have to use them. Each redirect is a separate request to the server that increases load times. Often, retailers continue to maintain redirects from old links to the new ones. These redirects should be removed when most shoppers have started accessing the new URLs directly.

10. Use Fast Hosting Servers

Size your hosting server — i.e., RAM, hard drive storage, CPU speed — to meet your traffic requirements. This challenge is commonly seen with retailers that have grown, but still use a smaller server (or shared servers).

Ask your hosting provider to size the server based on peak user load, probable traffic growth in the next year, and memory requirements. Then set up email alerts if the defined thresholds — such as peak traffic loads — are exceeded. This will tell you to resize your server.

Do you have other suggestions for improving site speed? Please share in the comments, below.

Gagan Mehra
Gagan Mehra
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Comments ( 8 )

  1. Nilesh V May 7, 2015 Reply

    Nice article, you can also advice server on cloud for multination ecommerce website.

  2. Yoann D May 8, 2015 Reply

    Nice article with useful tips.

    Optimized images are also essential for optimal web performance (not only the specification of their size in your html). A good article on the subject : https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/performance/optimizing-content-efficiency/image-optimization?hl=en

    you can also use https://www.dareboost.com to check your images (it’s free and take only a few seconds)

  3. Testomato May 21, 2015 Reply

    Thanks, Gagan. Together with monitoring websites speed it is also a good idea to monitor their status in general to make sure they are up and running.

    Plenty of automated website checking tools for that, Testomato from http://www.testomato.com is one great example of website testing software.

  4. Junaid June 6, 2015 Reply

    I don’t understand, why do I bother [a microscopic-seller as compared to eBay, Amazon] when not a single giant did score the mark (85/100)?

    • Will July 15, 2015 Reply

      I think you’re looking at the issue from the wrong perspective. Just because other sites aren’t making their websites load faster doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. Focus on your own customers, instead of looking at what your competitors are doing.

      If you can make your own website load a lot faster then your visitors are more likely to spend longer on your website and hopefully buy something.

      If your website is slow and takes more than a few seconds to load each page your customers may just click “back” and go elsewhere.

  5. Gagan Mehra June 6, 2015 Reply

    Junaid, Good point but with the larger players it is not just about speed. They spend a significant amount on marketing and hence have no problem in attracting more traffic. Also, they have promotions & discounts that are not matched by other retailers. Sometimes they have unique products that are not available elsewhere so even if the site is slow, customers buy from them. And lastly, it is the trust of buying something from a larger site. If something is wrong, their customer service team will help or issue an refund which may not be the case with smaller retailers. Thanks

  6. Kevin November 12, 2015 Reply

    Thank you for this tips.

    I found an another blog post, which had some additional informations on Magento speed optimization. I hope it is useful.

    http://goo.gl/SaM9zf

  7. AbsoluteWebServices February 5, 2016 Reply

    I find this article really useful. All these methods really help you to speed up your site, but i have one addition advice:
    – if your site is developed on PHP, use the last version of it. It is more stable, secure so that your site will be speedy.

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