Does your website have a weight problem? Page bloat is becoming a huge issue in cyberspace. Symptoms include slow page loads, decreased page rankings, and unhappy visitors who never return.
Fortunately, there’s a cure for bloated, heavy pages. The following tips will help your website perform well and provide the kind of user experience all site owners and content creators dream about.
What Causes Page Bloat?
Occasionally, it can be caused by a technical glitch that generates too many pages. The more pages Google has to analyze, and the lower the content quality, the lower your website will rank in search results.
Other causes for page bloat are:
- Excessive coding
- Too many pages with unoriginal or stale content
- Content that’s poorly managed
- Pages with little traffic
- Search pages that get indexed accidentally
Before you fine-tune your website, it’s important to conduct a thorough analysis. This will help you determine where the biggest issues are occurring so that you can focus your efforts in the right direction. There are several tools available, some of which are free, and they can perform analytics that will tell your where your pages are performing well and where you can improve your metrics.
For example, Google has a set of webmaster tools that are designed to help you improve your content, which will result in more efficient indexing and improve your SERPs (search engine page rank). This is a good option since Google sets the standards for how pages are ranked.
Other tools that can measure how fast your pages load are Pingdom, WebPage Test, and Web page Analyzer. You should save any reporting to compare results over time and at set intervals. This will help your discover trends that could be affecting site performance.
As eCommerce and freelancing become more prolific, websites are becoming larger, heavier, and more difficult to manage. These issues also make them more difficult for search engines to index.
If your website is overweight, there are several fixes that should solve the problem.
Resize Visual Media
More than half of your page weight is likely due to images. This doesn’t mean that you have to eliminate images from your website. Just resize them to reduce the time it takes your pages to load. Decide how many you really need and remove unnecessary icons, large fonts, video, and photos. You can also reduce the image resolution, create collages rather than uploading individual photos, store all of your video content on a YouTube channel, and experiment with different types of files.
Minify JS and Style Sheets
You can compress code by limiting the number of unnecessary comments and reduce white space, truncate or combine coding into a single file, creating one for style elements and one for commands. This will reduce the number of HTML requests and streamline web site performance.
Purge Your Databases
Keeping old or unused themes and plugins not only adds weight to your website, it makes it an easy target for hackers. Disabling won’t solve the problem. You have to delete old, unused, or obsolete plugins and themes. The same goes for CSS and JS frameworks. Consider it spring cleaning for your website.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Speed relates to how much content you deliver, but it’s also affected by how far the data needs to travel to reach an end-user. Cloud-based or virtual networks can alleviate some of the problem by allowing global traffic to choose the server closest to their location. You can achieve the same thing automatically by using a CDN. This will distribute your content over different servers in the network that are closer to where the HTTP requests are originating.
Another way to limit HTTP requests is to enable browser caching. This will allow the entire file to be downloaded at once, keeping the local file in the browser cache until the page is refreshed and an update requested. Generally, the first page will take longer to load than subsequent pages, but you can get around this by changing the page layout and using fewer images, media, and widgets. Simplifying your page layout will also provide visitors with a more satisfying experience, which will also put you in good favor with Google.
Re-Evaluate Your Development Style
Many of these suggestions will lead to leaner web page design, but consider what other bad habits ypou;ve picked up during website or app development that are contributing to the problem. Much like security, performance should be taken into consideration from the start. Should a page that’s mostly text run more than 2 MB? Overcoding and being too complex are common mistakes when you’re new to web development. It’s like being a novice writer who uses 10 words to say the same thing that can be conveyed with two or three well-chosen ones.
Question each asset and decide if it really needs to be there, test your website by accessing it from different locations and types of connections, and conduct performance testing using available testing tools.
Implement a Build Process
Using an automated tool like Gulp that concatenates CSS style sheets or compresses files for you will make sure that each asset is optimized while you focus on other design features. Once you get your build process app installed and set up, you only have to perform certain redundant tasks once; the automation will minify, compress, and concatenate from there.
A Few Words About Web Hosting
Optimizing your website to make it leaner and more efficient does more than just raise your profile and online reach. It can also save money on your hosting because you’ll use fewer resources and be less likely to experience downtime. Just make sure to carefully consider your hosting options before you choose a service.
Not all hosting companies are created the same. Those that offer unlimited hosting should be avoided at all costs. Tracking their performance over many months can help you cut through the marketing fluff and see how they are actually performing. What most typical hosting companies promise in terms of uptime and downtime can differ quite dramatically from their actual performance. A 12 month study by Aussie Hosting showed that low to medium tier hosting companies performed almost twice as bad as higher end hosts.
If you’re looking to track your own host’s performance, Pingdom has a great free solution for simple tracking.
Perhaps you can make do with shared hosting because you don’t need many resources or you have a static website, such as a blog or online portfolio. Maybe you can cut costs without affecting access or performance with a cloud-based hosting solution. Analyze your needs and choose the hosting package that’s best for your type of website and future goals. Opting for a managed hosting solution will provide a lot of time saving benefits over self managed solutions.
You can create content masterpieces, but they’ll never be seen if you don’t optimize your website for performance. Using current best practices for design, paired with a hosting company that provides you with the resources you need to display your pages in the best light, will advance your brand and help you attain the kind of traffic that has eluded you in the past.