Site Speed Improvements – From E to A fast!

We are often called upon to improve the speed of a website, and we have a methodology that helps us get some quick wins, making the site speed improvements happen at a pace.

So when we were faced with a website that scored E on GT Metrix, we were excited at the prospect of the challenge.

We also looked at Google Lighthouse to give us a starting point and you can see here that the score for most elements, apart from performance was very low indeed.

In fact, the website owner had used a plugin to reduce the size of his images, CSS and JavaScript, yet this plugin itself was heavy and causing more speed issues than it resolved. This is not unusual, and we strongly recommend avoiding plugins that offer huge improvements in site speed, and simply focus on best practices in the first instance.

Best Practices for Site Speed Improvements

You should always have a reference point to check that what you are doing is working, we we find that using gtmetrix.com and also Google Lighthouse are great ways to get relatively up to date information on what is causing a slow site. Of course, every tool relies on a clear cache, soit is testing the most up to date information, and sometimes you have to play the waiting gain before you can see the results. Testing the next day gives a better picture.

We also very strongly recommend taking a back up of every element you have changed and annotating very clearly what you have done and when. We suggest you check the site at every stage so that you can quickly fix anything that breaks. Unfortunately it can happen, so be prepared to undo what you have done on the odd occasion.

  • Run a Report – run both gtmetrix and Google Lighthouse reports. Both will give you ideas as to what you can do to improve the speed. (Open your site in an incognito window, right click, inspect element, then you will see the Lighthouse option. Simply follow the instructions).
  • Header and Footer – remember that on most sites, making changes on the header and the footer will affect the speed of multiple (sometimes all) pages on your website – so start there!
  • Compress and Convert – Compress your images BEFORE you convert then into webp format. This means you have the best, fastest version of the image that you can.
  • Text versus HTML – Have more words than code, try to avoid using page builders, which include more code which takes longer for a page to load.
  • Compress CSS and JS files – Starting with the things that will give you the most improvement, copy and save your file, compress, upload and test, test test again! Check all pages on your site to make sure nothing is broken BEFORE doing anything else, and please remember that the incognito window is your friend, as is using the Hard Refresh trick. (Right click, inspect element, go to the area on your browser where you see the URL and to the left you will see a refresh circle, right click the circle, hard refresh)

Once you have worked through the recommendations and fixed what you can, test again.

For this particular website, we found that the server itself was slow, and so we moved to a new hosting company that offered a server in their local region, which was fast and not shared (dedicated server).

But now look at it!

Of course, if you need help, or simply do not have the time, please feel free to call us on 01604 328899 or email info@m3sm.co.uk – we look forward to hearing from you.

Tracy Spence

Tracy Spence - M3 Strategic Marketing