The speed of your website became an important ranking factor with Google a few years ago, but increasingly evidence shows that Google have made it an important part of their ranking algorithm. Here as long ago as 2010 it was discussed on the Google webmaster blog:
And it is not only Google which takes page load speed into account – so do your users. Research shows that the longer a user has to wait for a page to load, the lower the number of users that will wait for it to load, and then stay on that page. Repeated slow page loads will soon push them away from your website, and they won’t be buying from you.
CMS Website Speed
It always used to be that the CMS systems such as Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal and so on had the richest features available to users, but sometimes with that richness came slow loading pages. This was caused by too many images, on page scripts, and styles, many of which were not even required.
A website made this way may have great features, and almost limitless add-ons available which future-proof you against your own changing future requirements to evolve your website. But a developer had to work hard and be technically savvy to speed the website up, and this work often involved stripping out or rebuilding lots of features that were built into the theme (template).
At Channel we got very good at doing this, and also at selecting theme developers who we know gave better performance, as well as the right styling for our clients’ websites. But it’s always a shame to have to re-engineer things because they were not done well enough the first time.
Here on the MOZ website for example you can see a good range of resources on how to speed up a website, how to test your page load speed, and so on:
Static Website Speed
Conversely of course you can have an old-style "static" website. These usually load incredibly fast, there is no CMS (content management function), no extra scripts that the designer did not put in there. However these sites do nothing, typically don’t engage your users, and fall short when you want to encourage shopping, or other user-active features. These websites are largely falling by the wayside as site owners in the Web 2.0 world require more functionality, but they were at least, usually, quite quick.
Bespoke Website Speed
The third approach was always to develop your own CMS system. While these could be both fast and interactive, they are typically both much more expensive, and also lack the wide range of add-on features that make the popular CMS systems (Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal) so attractive to website owners. For this reason they were really only an advantage to very well healed companies with large budgets and permanent development teams. Even for those companies it was debatable whether this kind of system ever really offered value for money when creating a rich user experience, when compared to an opensource CMS system.
The Sweet Spot?
So where is the sweet spot between all these different approaches?
Well at Channel Digital we decided to produce our own custom coded themes for use on the popular Content Management Systems. Channel's Lightning Fast Templates, or "LFT", are designed to be both mobile friendly and adaptable in the usual way, but especially to be lightning fast.
Removing unnecessary features and scripts they allow us to bring the page load times right down as low as can be achieved, and we can still custom style them as required for each of our websites, shopping carts, and portal sites. Another advantage is that when upgrades and maintenance are required we are working on our code, so we know far more intimately how it works, what scripts it uses, and how it has been optimised, giving us far more ability to control how it works, and how fast.
The result - lightning fast templates made for Joomla and Wordpress. Our custom designs are not only lightning fast and responsive to mobile screen sizes, but they are only available when we build the website ourselves. Often we can change an existing website (which may typically have a page load time in the 3 – 7 second range) to one of our designs, and bring that down into the very good 1-2 second range.
Here is an example of one of our early implementations, in this case a Wordpress site for one of our oldest friends and clients: "GPS-repeaters.com":
In this case we were able to bring the average page load time (as measured in this useful tool: Gtmetrix), from an older site with a 5-7 second page load time, to the current 1-3 seconds. The measurements are supported by two important website page speed tests: Yslow and Google Page speed. In each case we were able to achieve scores of 92% and 96% respectively, which is what contributes to the good page load time.
Always more to do
There is always more that can be done to speed up a website. Even once you have a Channel template installed, you can still do more:
- Use a faster server, so that the database requests as your web page loads can be processed faster. Specifically this often reduces the initial "waiting" time during the page load, this being the time during which the initial page request has been sent, and the first part of the response received. It is usually a faster server, or server optimisation which will improve this, rather than the template on the page that is eventually delivered.
- Use advanced server configurations to improve uptime, performance, and response to traffic spikes.
- Use a CDN (Content delivery network) to host some of your static content.
- Carry out continued optimisation in order to keep a web site with a growing user base, or growing complexity, loading in acceptable time limits.
All of the above become essential as the number of users on a website increases, but each has their costs – we can help you to set them up, and as our hosting servers are geared towards getting the best out of CMS websites you know you’ll have the fastest and most secure option with Channel.
How do I know if I can improve?
If your page load time seems to be greater than 3 seconds, there is every chance that you can get an improvement. Additionally if your SEO Company has done a lot of good SEO work, but the rewards haven’t yet been shown in your google rankings, then perhaps page load speed is the culprit? Step one is to test your web pages using GTmetrix test them a few times and from a few different locations. If you create an account with GTmetrix then you’ll be able to store your historic tests.
What can you do?
So what can you do is to call the Channel team. We can provide a quote to apply these new themes, which can depend on the complexity and age of your existing website.
What else should I be thinking about improving?
Updates: With website age tends to come out-of-date-ness, and an out of date website is often prone to being hacked. We would suggest that before updating your theme you also get the team to update your sites structure to the latest versions. After all what point is it having the fastest loading website if it has been hacked, and Google won’t even let your visitors go there!
Security: As well as keeping the website up to date there are a range of other security features that can be added. At Channel we have a well-developed package of security enhancements for CMS websites, keeping them as fast and secure as the day they were developed. These security improvements include up-to-date web site and server software, our scanning systems, backups and optimisations, and detailed security changes. Please ask our team if you’d like to add this peace of mind to your company’s web presence.
Mobile Friendly: If your website isn’t mobile friendly by now, it really should be. It’s a while since Google introduced this as a ranking factor. With a Channel template you can "kill two birds with one stone", and make the site both faster, and responsive (mobile friendly) at the same time.
Content: Never stop adding new good content to your website. Google values this above everything else, and the most successful websites are almost always the ones with the most, good quality content for their users.
User interaction: It is not just content that engages and finally capture your visitors however. A wide range of add-on features, from the basics such as email newsletters, and shopping carts, can be used to make a website a better asset to your business. It definitely doesn’t stop there however. Talk to our team about how you might engage better with your visitors, and convert more of them into loyal clients.
As ever with the web there are no truly easy answers. Too many technical factors interrelate for that. However with the introduction of the Channel templates we have made one part of your decision making process easier. We don’t think there has previously been such a straightforward way of taking a highly interactive "Opensource" CMS website and making it load faster, with all the benefits that will be associated with that.
For the best advice and support available for an online business, talk to the dedicated Channel team on 01326 567 150.