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
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’
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
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.