How to Lose that Website Weight Fast!
Well, once again summer is over. The days are getting shorter, the nights a bit chillier. Soon, all you’ll feel like doing is curling up on the couch with a stack of blankets and a stash of treats.
But with indulgent holidays on the horizon, now seems like a good time to remind you to watch your weight.
Your website weight, that is.
Website obesity is becoming an epidemic of sorts. And while it won’t wipe out cities or tear families apart, it’s getting worse every day. Between January and August of this year, the amount of data users are required to download from an average webpage rose from 2.2MB to 2.4MB. Sure, that sounds like a handful of bytes, no biggie, but consider this: just five years ago, the average webpage only required an 807KB download.
Website bloat matters, because data volume matters. It matters because it impacts everything from user data and bandwidth limitations to carbon emissions. And from a marketing perspective, it matters because it impacts everything from conversions to search engine rankings. The slower a page loads, the faster a customer bounces. You can’t engage or make sales if no one wants to hang around long enough to hear you out.
So this autumn, as you’re enjoying harvest’s bounty of pecan pies and chugging pumpkin spice lattes, put your website on a strict diet regimen. Here’s how in six steps:
1) Reduce website image size
One easy way to do this before you even upload images on your site is to run them through TinyJPG or TinyPNG. This free web compression tool can reduce image sizes up to 70% without losing quality. If you use a lot of images on your website, though, your best bet would be to find and use a compression plugin to manage the process.
For WordPress sites, I’ve used and liked WP Smush.it — you can run the plugin retroactively to reduce size across your entire image library. Plus, it will automatically “smush” every new image attachment you upload.
2) Eliminate coding inefficiencies
Heavy scripts, errors, bad requests, and redirects can be a real drag on website load time. Both Pingdom and Google’s Insights tool will let you enter your website’s URL and run a scan. The results will help you figure out problem areas on mobile and desktop devices and how to address them.
I don’t mean to single them out, but it looks like grocery retailer Safeway has a number of mobile fixes to attend to:
3) Trim down those plugins
Website plugins can also work to weigh a good page down. First things first, deactivate and delete any plugins you don’t need anymore. Then, study up on the remaining ones. For a plugin-only analysis tool, P3 is a good choice. Simply install it on your website like your other plugins to see which of them are hogging most of the page load time. Once you know which are the worst offenders, you can try replacing them with lighter, better-coded plugin solutions.
Remember, always back up your website before making any changes to the backend.
4) Use compression for a slimmer profile
And I don’t mean Spanx.
We’re already familiar with the concept of file compression — everyone’s “zipped” files to send to another person before. Well, website compression works similarly to save on bandwidth.
You can quickly tell whether your website is already using compression or not by visiting Check Gzip Compression. If it’s not, enabling website compression can be as simple as adding a few lines of code to the .htacccess file in your website root. Then again, if you can’t tell a Linux from an Apache server, you might be better off sticking with the plugin approach.
You can find a handful of Gzip-only plugin tools available out there, but most of the time compression is built into an all-purpose caching plugin. Which brings me to…
5) A cache a day
Every time your browser loads a web page for the first time, the server springs into action, finding and returning requests for headers, footers, new posts, widgets, and all the other relevant content. What caching does is collect all of a web page’s files and resources into a temporary package and place it where the server can find it again quickly — making the page load faster for users on subsequent visits.
There are a ton of great caching plugins out there that will also handle a variety of other features like page compression, automatic cache rebuilding, and minification. Check out W3 Total Cache, WP Fastest Cache, WP Super Cache, or WP Rocket to get started.
Bonus, every time you load your website you can smile and say “What a great cache!”
6) Minify your resources
Minification sounds cute, but there’s more to it than sounding adorable. “Minifying” your website means gathering all the HTML, JS, and CSS files scattered around your website’s directories and combining them into one library, therefore making these resources easier to locate and faster to load. WP Minify Fix and Better WordPress Minify are two good plugin options to try, as they will minify HTML, JS, and CSS (many other plugins will do just JS and CSS or only HTML).
There you have it, six steps to a smaller, more efficient website. Now get out there and burn off all those excess bytes!