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5 Fixes For Your Slow Website

5 Fixes For Your Slow Website 618 803 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

Recently one of our customers was starting to experience occasional web site slowness due to their ever increasing website size and popularity of their WordPress site. As always, our team of talented engineers were onto the problem straight away and I thought it would be useful to share our thoughts on some of the things you should consider to optimise your WordPress site.

WordPress is one of the world’s most popular Content Management Systems (CMS). Its engine is used by an impressive list of websites that includes the likes of e-bay, Yahoo! and the Wall Street Journal. Even our own humble little site is built using WordPress. With any CMS, there are five critical factors that can transform the visitor experience (and improve your bottom line).

Core infrastructure

This should be the first question you should look at with any web host. Is this shared hosting, or are you using a VPS? Even if your site only has a few hundred visits a month, you should consider looking at using a VPS. It is only a slightly higher cost per month, but it gives you (or your IT support team) visibility in to what is going on. For example it allows us to pinpoint the hardware limitations that may be slowing down the web site, or even causing it to crash. There are tools out there to isolate exactly which part of a website is causing the problem. None of these tools are of any use in your standard consumer shared hosting environments, such as websites accessible through cPanel.

The Webserver

Not all webservers are created equal. While Apace has been around a long time and is the default for many websites, newer web servers such as nginx are engineered to provide a much faster response under high load scenarios. Again, you may need a VPS to take advantage of this technology as many hosting control panels do not support nginx.

Optimising Templates and Plugins

Many WordPress sites use third party templates and plugins that are incorporated into the site. What you may not know is that many of these templates refer to components that are hosted on remote website. Combining all this content onto your site, and using tools like Google’s Pagespeed can yield some truly great results.

Compressing Images

In some cases, images can also be optimised without any loss in quality. By default most modern SLRs take photos of sufficient quality to produce image the size of a billboard. This is probably overkill for many websites and by using image manipulation tools like Photoshop, or even Google’s free Picasa, you can shrink the images file size considerably without any noticeable loss in quality.

Caching

Most web pages are generated in real time as visitors browse your web site. Because much of the website content does not change much, it is possible to prepare the content in advance. We call this caching. There are two ways to achieve this. The first is to use a Content Distribution Network (CDN). The second is to use a WordPress to like WP Super Cache.
Why should we care about website performance? Research shows that speeding up your website pages by even a few seconds can have a dramatic effect on sales. And of course your competitors’ websites are only a few clicks away…

CDN: Is Your Slow Website Losing You Sales?

CDN: Is Your Slow Website Losing You Sales? 150 150 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

As a business owner, you know that it is important to have a website, but have you ever thought about using the same technologies and techniques as the big boys?

What is a Content Distribution Network?

One tool that large e-commerce players use for site speed optimisation up and secure their sites is a CDN (Content Delivery Network). Only a few years ago, these were expensive, and only for enterprise customers. Fortunately for us, technology, and market forces have pushed the prices down to a point that even a Small Business can afford.

More sophisticated CDNs can also optimise the underlying pages and images, as well as provide web site security, but more on this later.  So why would even a small web site need a basic CDN?

Every web page is made up of a number elements, this includes things like text, images and often videos.  Now the further away geographically the user is to the website, the slower it is, right?

So rather than bringing the user to the same country as the website (costly!), we bring as much of the website as possible to the same country as the user.  For the visually inclined, here’s a diagram about CDNs from Wikipedia.

Content Distribution Network

A CDN is basically a collection of web servers in data centres around the globe. In its simplest form, each of these web servers keeps a local copy of pieces of your website, typically the parts that don’t change often, such as images.

This improves web site experience for the end user.  Why would we want to do this?  Well there are two main benefits.

Firstly studies show that if websites run faster, end users are likely to spend more time on them, and it also increases their likelihood to buy online.  In fact, a study by U.S. Research Company Aberdeen Group found that a 1-second delay in page load time can result in:

  • 7% fewer conversions
  • 11% fewer page views
  • 16% decrease in customer satisfaction

Worst case, really slow web sites will frustrate users to the point where they will leave, with your competition only one click away.  However studies have shown that even improving site speed by a few seconds per page load can have a 5 to 10% increase in online sales.

Secondly, the guys at Google are pretty smart.  In many ways, they have programmed their search algorithms to behave like users.  This means that if your website responds faster, your site will actually rank a bit higher in organic searches. While site speed is only a small factor in your overall rank, but every little bit helps.

Mike, That Sounds Too Good To Be True.

If all this sounds too good to be true, there are a few things to be aware of.  The first thing is that if it is not managed properly, web content can become ‘stale’.  By this we mean the CDN can display yesterday’s news, rather than up to the minute content.  The other thing is that your website reporting and analytics can also be affected.  However if you have the right team of web infrastructure specialists, all these issues can be easily overcome.

Now CDNs won’t solve every website performance problem.  Over-crowded web hosts, cheap offshore web-hosting, and poorly written content management systems will still likely need to be addressed.

However, you no longer need to spend thousands to get your website rebuilt and optimised.  Instead a CDN can be a very cost effective way to get some extra speed, especially for overseas visitors, and maybe even a boost to your sales.