Speed is crucial if you are looking to create a successful venture on the web. Web sites that are faster tend to do better than ones that are not as fast. According to Neil Patel:
- About 47% of users expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less.
- A one-second delay in loading can bring down conversations by 7%.
The booming network and fibre optics for the internet industry has pushed internet speed to the limits. It has also made people more impatient as ever.
Having a slow website is like riding a horse in a race where your competitor has a sports supercar. If you use Cloudways as your managed cloud hosting provider, then you chose well!
But having a half-decent hosting plan is a great start, but it’s only part of the deal. There are tons of other stuff that you can do to ensure that your application works at full capacity.
So, do you want to know if your website could be faster? Maybe it can be faster. Don’t worry we will talk about how to identify and make your websites faster than ever with Cloudways.
Speed equals traffic and revenue.
Why focus on speed?
We cannot stress enough the importance of speed in gaining quality traffic. And quality traffic means higher conversion rates. And higher conversion rates mean more revenue.
But most importantly, we expect websites to be fast. Advancements in the tech industry over the past decade is to blame. Newer and better hardware and network algorithms have given the industry a huge boost.
Faster websites also mean a higher SEO rank! Google and other search engines are invariably getting smarter. Faster websites tend to do rank than slower ones.
A high – quality website which takes longer than 4 seconds to load might lose out on 40,000 potential customers! That is a lot of potential revenue. So website speed is worth working on. But how are web hosting services and speed of the websites linked?
Web hosting and Speed.
Ultimately, web hosting services offer servers to store and run your websites. All servers are not the same. Speed and capacity change from model to model, equipment to equipment and server to server. So selecting a fast and reliable hosting provider is the first step in getting your website running.
With the cloud computing industry taking over the traditional web hosting market, it is a good time to re-think your hosting strategy.
Using the cloud to host your website, has quite a few perks. But most importantly, the cloud stores your website assets based on their category efficiently across the cloud architecture.
Traditional shared hosting also means that the websites on the server share the resources. Every once in a while some website over-draws from its shared resource pool because of increased traffic, it brings increased load on the entire server.
This makes your website that is present in the same server slow when the traffic had nothing to do with you!
The metric that you should be interested in is the Server Response Time. That is, it is the time it takes to receive the first byte of information, on a user making a server request. Also called Time to First Byte. If your hosting service uses servers with Solid State Drives, they are much faster than regular ones.
This more often makes your website faster than others that are hosted by traditional web servers. And when it comes to the few managed web hosting services in town it does not get better than Cloudways.
So picking Cloudways was a smart choice! For a full in-depth analysis on Cloudways and its articles, check out our previous articles.
Features that aﬀect website speed
You could be a developer or someone who codes his own website. If so, how you code your website has a lot to do with how it performs.
A good website should capitalise on good coding practices and state of the art technology wherever possible.
A sub-par design puts you behind in the website speed race before you even start. The architecture and performance are very closely linked. We’ll talk about some developer tips later in this article.
Visual content is photos, videos and graphics. They take up a lot of memory and computation while loading in. A webpage that overuses visual content is undoubtedly slower than others that use them wisely.
It is not possible to eliminate visual content usage completely! Visual content marketing has peaked in the past decade. It is the most effective form of modern marketing and cannot be compromised easily.
So it is important to find the balance. Compression and optimisation techniques help wherever possible.
Other File types, Static Assets and Sizes
Usually, the more files and static assets that you have, the bigger they are, the more time it will take to load them into the website. Images and visual content are not the only forms of static assets.
Widgets and Plugins
If you are using a WordPress website then, the plugins you use matter. Plugins are at the end of the day just code injections that make your website work a certain way. Non-optimal plugins make your website sluggish and perform badly under good conditions.
Plugins offer an easy way to customise the website. From Elementor that helps re-organise your theme to Monster Insights that give page statistics, there are a huge array of plugins to choose from.
But having too many active plugins is a bad idea. You should rethink the quality and quantity of plugin that you use. Using well-maintained plugins also goes a long way.
Browser and User Device Cache
The user’s browser and device cache also have some effect on loading speed. Some browsers are very obviously faster than others.
Device cache is when the user’s device stores recently visited sites and information. Configuring cache settings is crucial in achieving low latency. Most web hosting services have a dedicated section for this purpose.
Server and Client Location
The larger the geographical distance between the server and the user, the longer it takes for the client’s request to hit the server and get back a response.
This is obvious in the sense that, with greater distances, the request will have to be routed through a larger number of nodes on the internet.
Imagine your site is hosted in Bangalore, and you are accessing it from San Fransisco.
Larger distance, longer response time.
Now you could be accessing the same website from Chennai. This will take considerably lesser time than the previous request.
Features to use to achieve higher speed with Cloudways Hosting
Content Delivery Networks or CDNs are just a group of servers spread around the world that help deliver website assets and make them load faster.
We talked about how geographical distance is crucial in calculating response time. With CDNs during a request, the assets are transmitted to the many mini-locations (or points of presence) around the world owned by the CDN service provider.
Users now load assets from the nearest mini-location instead of the actual server. So this solves two problems,
- Geographic location dependency is eliminated.
- Traffic reduces because your original server (Bangalore in the eg.) will see lesser hits, and this reduces the load.
Cloudways provides its own CDN (called CloudwaysCDN) as an add-on with a cloud-hosting server. It uses StackPath CDN (formerly MaxCDN) as partner service (it’s PaaS).
Installing CloudwaysCDN is extremely simple.
Navigate to – Applications (Navbar) -> Click on an application -> Cloudways CDN.
Check the website URL and press the create button.
This would enable the CDN and open the CloudwaysCDN options panel. You will see the following
- Website URL – Your domain name
- CDN URL – This CDN URL should be added to a place where you need to add the URL for your application’s static resources.
- Bandwidth – The bandwidth used by the application in the present month.
- Purge Content – Deletes all cached data from the PoPs we earlier talked about. Use it when you change your website content and do not want users to use the outdated cached data.
- Remove Subscription – Uninstalls the CDN from your application. Be sure to remove the CDN URL before you hit this button!
Cloudways CDN is very affordable. The price is $1 per month for 25 GB. For every additional GB, the extra fee is $0.04. The pricing is definitely on the cheaper side.
But note that you can also use other CDNs such as Cloudflare while using Cloudways for only hosting your website in the cloud.
Good design and architecture of web application and its hosting are crucial for fast websites. Clean coding practices and modular implementation are key. For WordPress websites, using themes with planned and robust architectures are important.
So if you are a developer, pay attention to the dependencies and environment during production/deployment. If you are using a WordPress website, make sure you are using well-architectured themes and templates.
Compressing Static Files – Compress and media files that you upload. If you use a WordPress site there are plugin that can do this for you.
The best approach is by using Cloudways’ own WordPress cache plugin – Breeze. It is free for all and makes minification as easy as checking boxes.
Use CSS Sprites (SpriteMe) – There seems to be improved session time when the graphics and visual content load first. SpriteMe is a feature that uses CSS Sprites to coordinate the website design to load it faster.
It essentially complies multiple images into a single file. The computer can fetch an image into memory. And only display parts of the image at a time. With increased session time and better conversion, this improves the quality of the users visiting your website.
WordPress Tweaks – Themes and Plugins
WordPress is a great way to create simple and elegant websites with little tech savvy-ness and programming know-how. About one in every three websites on the web is a WordPress website. WordPress and Cloudways work amazingly well together.
With WordPress the themes and plugins you use greatly affect the complexity (and therefore speed) of the website.
Themes are just a set of files (images, stylesheets and PHP scripts) that decide how your WordPress website looks. Different factors determine the speed of a theme. Some of them are
- Number of images and their respective size
- The styling of elements
- The complexity of the script
- Default Plugins
- The browser
We cannot stress enough choosing a well maintained and lightweight theme. To make things easier for you here are a list of high-speed themes in 2020
- StudioPress Themes
You can find an in-depth analysis of all the above themes in our previous exclusive article.
Plugins add additional functionality to your WordPress site. Always use the least number of plugins possible. Interestingly, there are quite a few plugins that help monitor website health and performance. Query Monitor is one such plugin. It helps monitor and optimise database queries that are made in the server.
If you think your website is under-performing, deactivate all your plugins and try again. If you see a performance improvement, then a plugin could be causing a bottleneck. The WordPress plugin library is huge and you can find alternatives for plugins that cause lag.
Always keep your WordPress installation and its dependencies updated. This is not only critical for performance but also squashes any security vulnerabilities that pop up.
As we already talked about, proximity is extremely important to achieve high speed. So when you create your Cloudways server make sure you choose a datacenter closest to your potential audience.
If your requirements gathering phase suggests maximum users in India, you can choose a data centre in Mumbai or Chennai. Cloudways servers’ data centres depend on the underlying IaaS that you opt for.
So while choosing your IaaS remember to choose wisely. You can check out our article on Cloudways pricing to know more about the different IaaS providers.
Also, check if the server and the database are in the same data centre. If they are, then it’s great for performance. But do not worry, Cloudways has this sorted by default.
CDNs are the best way to reduce the dependency of website speed on data centre location. CloudwayCDN (as we saw earlier) is highly recommended!
If you are developing your own website without content management software like WordPress then you need to pay extra attention while coding. Here are some things that are worth working on
- HTTP Requests – Understand HTTP requests because a large number of HTTP requests can slow your website down. Using common speed test tools on the internet can list the requests made sorted by file size.
- Image Size and Format – Choosing the correct kind of image format (ideally JPEG or PNG) is crucial in reducing query response time. Storing images in the database with correct encodings also go a long way. Resize the images into a fixed format wherever possible (you don’t need a 1080×1080 image for a 100×100 profile picture).
- Lazy Loading Images – Lazy loading means, initially, you only load the content for the default window size of the browser. Images after 1 viewport height (offscreen) will load only when the user scrolls down. This saves the server a lot of work by reducing unwanted load.
- Optimise database queries – Websites with large databases (like eCommerce sites) tend to grow fast. A minimal reduction in the query response time can make a large difference in website performance. SQL databases tend to scale better than NoSQL ones, but this varies for different applications. Optimise sub-queries. Also, check out MySQL caching to improve database performance.
How do test website Speed?
Different speed testing tools help test website speed.
Local Machine (Browser)
Your browser can give you some insight into your website’s performance. If you are using chrome, do the following
- Right-click anywhere in the window
- Click on inspect
- Switch to the Network tab
- Reload the page whose performance you want to measure
This lists all the HTTP requests made and the statuses returned. It also reports the time (in ms) it took to retrieve the data.
The limitation of this method is, it is limited to your device and location. You will not evaluate the experience of the general audience fairly.
So this asks for a more generalised testing mechanism, that can also offer other insights. A straightforward score will make it easier for developers to rank their performance. The following are 3 popularly used testing tools on the internet that do exactly this.
Pingdom is a performance monitoring tool that uses more than 70 polling locations around the world to generate a fair score. It is as simple as entering the URL and receiving an overall score. The overall score is followed by a detailed report of all requests made and responses received.
Page Speed Insights
Page speed insights is a google developer tool. It evaluates the website based on performance, SEO, accessibility, progressive web apps and more.
You can see scores on speed index and cumulative layout shift. It also reports on areas to improve on. It is considered extremely valuable in SEO.
By far generates the most detailed report out of the 3. Much more insightful details are reported. Allows the download of the report. Can compare the performance of the
website against its performance in the recent past. Some features and graphics require
signup but are still completely free.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Should I prioritise speed over UI-UX?
No. You should never put one over the other. A great website will strike the balance between speed and user experience. But then keep in mind that speed is also a factor in positive user experience. Using the right amount of media content and text content is key to achieve this.
- I have a large amount of critical media content. Should I consider removing some of them?
Not necessarily. If you cannot compromise on the number of graphic files, then you can always reduce their size and quality.
You can also consider using gzip to compress images before storing them. If you cannot compromise on any of the above, you might have to scale up your server and its RAM/CPU.
- My website is receiving increased traffic at specific times of the year and it is affecting the website’s speed. What should I do?
You will have to change your web hosting plan to accommodate increased traffic. It is extremely simple to scale the server up and down with Cloudways managed cloud hosting.
Since you only pay as you use, you can always scale down the server after the limited period of increased activity. Check out this doc about scaling Cloudways servers.
4. How is website speed related to searching engine ranking?
Google, the most popular search engine in the world, announced page speed would be a ranking factor for desktops in 2010. The same was announced for mobile devices in 2018.
When users have a slow experience, they’re much less likely to find what they are looking for. Any site with a loading time of more than 3 seconds sees a 50% decrease in traffic.
Google’s Page Speed Insights is a great way to measure performance in desktop and mobile separately.