What is website performance and why should you care?
You’ve invested thousands of dollars and dozens of hours into designing and developing your website to represent your business’s best look.
Now, you’re at a weekend barbecue and you pull out your phone to show your neighbor your brand-new website but it’s taking a long time to load. You’re staring at your phone telling your neighbor how awesome it’s going to be and that it’s worth the wait while the awkward silence stretches out before you.
Or imagine your website is live and your coworker who happens to be colorblind goes to the website to review, but can’t read half of your copy because the designer did not take anything into consideration for differently abled people using the website.
Perhaps any business’s nightmare scenario would be you got a call Monday morning from a potential customer who says that your website has been down all weekend. You contact your website developer but they don’t get back to you for what seems like hours. Once you finally get someone on the phone, they tell you that your site hadn’t been properly maintained or updated, and a hacker exploited a well-known bug and took over your website, which is now selling fake Gucci bags.
These scenarios are common examples of how even beautiful websites can have poor performance. These are also scenarios that many business owners, unfortunately, know all too well.
So what is website performance exactly?
Website performance encompasses several different aspects that can include your website load speed, ADA accessibility, security, and even the quality of the server and your hosting.
Website load speed
How quickly your website loads depends on a number of factors and is a major component of your search engine optimization as well.
In 2021, Google updated its algorithm to include measuring website load speed as one of its many ranking factors. Since Google’s goal is always to provide the best experience for users, it makes sense that they would want website owners to make it easy for people to access their websites.
In addition, many studies have shown that if a website takes more than three seconds to load, the likelihood that somebody will click the back button on their browser or close the web page increases exponentially with each second that passes.
From an equity perspective, also consider that lightning fast wireless, or cellular connections are still a luxury throughout much of the world. Are you providing a good web experience for everyone or just those who have the best Internet available?
On-site Website load speed factors
Images are one of the easiest, and yet most overlooked ways, to decrease how long it takes for your website to load. Uploading images directly from your professional photographer, or even directly from your smartphone will result in large file sizes and large image dimensions. This requires your browser to resize your images as it loads them, which requires extra load time and processing power.
Learn how to properly optimize your images in our blog post on image optimization here.
Video backgrounds and improperly configured self-posted videos are also common culprits and are usually very large file sizes.
Website templates can also have lots of extra code included “just in case” you want to use that particular feature. WordPress themes such as Divvy are notorious for being user-friendly to build, but extremely heavy in the amount of extra code included. This not only impacts how long it takes to load your site but also confuses search engines when they’re trying to determine what is part of your site and what is not.
Luckily, there is an easy tool that can tell you what changes need to be made.
ADA and WCAG compliance
About 25% of the US population identifies as having some form of disability. That might be a physical disability that you can see such as an inability to work a keyboard, or it could be an invisible disadvantage, such as color blindness mentioned above or even ADHD.
In 2020 new laws came out governing ADA laws for websites which many businesses have been slow to adopt. Unfortunately, there are many people out there who either legitimately need these features to work your website or people who see an opportunity to take legal action against businesses.
Examples of often overlooked compliance features include:
- Not enabling your website to be read aloud by screen readers for those who are visually impaired
- Using low contrast graphics and imagery for people with low eyesight
- Using many animated or flashing features that have the potential to trigger epileptic conditions
- Small font sizes or button elements that require fine motor skills to utilize
- And many others
Ensuring that you take these things into consideration not only makes your website more equitable for all to use, but it also reduces the business’s risk of any legal action and liability. Our compliance solution even backs up documentation of your website accessibility compliance every 24 hours in the event of any type of legal action.
These days hosting solutions are a dime a dozen. From bargain basement deals like five dollars a month to more robust solutions that might run you $35 a month. It’s difficult for most people to tell the pros and cons of each solution.
In 2012 we, unfortunately, learned this lesson the hard way with the very first version of our own website. I made the decision to use a quick and dirty solution to get our business website up and selected an inexpensive hosting solution. Six months later, clients were complaining that I wasn’t answering their emails and we quickly realized that our domain-based email was blacklisted. Upon further investigation, I discovered that there were other websites on the shared hosting environment that were sending out spam emails, which resulted in everybody on that server suffering the consequences.
The amount of time it took to resolve the situation was in retrospect, a learning experience, but at the time it had an impact on our customer service and ability to close sales. I share this example with you because you don’t have to get hit with the same brick that I did to know that cheap hosting can hurt.
Fast forward to the present day: Consumers expect a secure website with a valid SSL, which can be determined by simply looking at the lock in the URL field of your browser.
As a business, you also want to be sure that not only are the websites in your hosting neighborhood practicing good website maintenance, but also that your host provider has high uptimes so that your website doesn’t go down unexpectedly. And they are using the most up-to-date technology in their servers so that you are not limited by what you can achieve with your website by their lack of innovation.
An example of this would be not running a current version of PHP, which might not be compatible with the most up-to-date version of WordPress or your plug-ins and therefore you leave yourself open and vulnerable to hacks through those outdated plug-ins.
Additionally, many business owners will set up a WordPress site and opt out of maintenance programs that will keep their website and plug-ins up-to-date, to minimize the risk of getting hacked, or worse, being the victim of a ransomware attack.
The good news is that there are many solutions available, including our dedicated server, that will only host, clean and well-maintained sites that are reputable. This significantly decreases the risk of exploitation. And although there can never be a 100% guarantee, savvy web design companies and web hosting providers make security their priority in order to ensure the continuity of their clients’ businesses.
How do these things affect your SEO and ultimately lead to positive business outcomes?
Throughout this article, we’ve mentioned several ways that each detail can impact SEO. Whether that be through a fast website load or through the neighborhood your website is hosted in. Search engines like Google are ultimately most concerned with users’ happiness.
- Are they finding the right results?
- Are they able to easily access the information you’re providing?
- Are they able to modify the website for their comfort?
- Are they making a purchase on a secure website?
- Are they providing you with personal information on a secure website?
How does your website stack up?
If this article has you wondering “Does my website cover all these bases?“ We have a few tools where you can do quick scans of your site below!