by Andrew Chernauskas

As we enter the new year, it’s a great time to reflect on the achievements of 2015 and set goals for 2016. While many are pledging to lose weight and get in shape, why not take a look to see if your website needs to trim down as well? Just as healthy eating and exercise can help you feel great and get more done, keeping your website lean can keep it running fast and doing more.

The importance of a fast and lean website

Research continues to demonstrate that fractions of seconds can make a big difference keeping users visiting your site and making purchases online. The Washington Post recently saw traffic gains after improving on site speed, and a new report shows slow websites cost retailers $2.6 billion in lost sales each year. Websites bloated with large ads and tracking code were the target of debate when iOS introduced content blocking technology in its latest version. It’s important to not only focus on how your site works, but how quickly it works. 

Tricks to keep your website healthy

While in-depth performance analysis can be a time consuming task, there are a few key points to get large gains quickly:

  • Make sure caching is enabled and configured properly. By default, most websites are set up so each user viewing it has to go through the slowest part: the database. Caching allows users to skip this step by creating static versions of your site. Drupal users can enable caching in their administration panel. WordPress users should install WP Super Cache or a similar plugin. 
  • Harness the power of the Cloud. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) can host copies of your site to make them faster to get to. CloudFlare is a popular CDN that’s easy to set up. More advanced websites can use tools like Varnish Cache as well.
  • Optimize images to serve smaller files to mobile users. While large photographs are a beautiful addition to your website, these can be a bear to load — especially on mobile devices. Using adaptive images is a technique to display resized versions of an image that match the size of the device viewing your site. Smaller phones and tablets can’t display desktop-sized files, so it’s unnecessary to show the full-sized version.
  • Trim down unnecessary modules, plugins, and widgets. It’s easy to accumulate lots of helpful plugins over the years. It’s also great to try out different tools to build better websites. But each of these modules add complexity and can impact the performance of your website. Maybe you’re not using that newsletter signup plugin anymore or are done with a particular analytics package. Why display a dozen social share buttons if they make your site too slow to read?
  • Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to diagnose problems. This is a great website to automatically view the code of your site, point out friction points, and suggest remedies. You can also encourage your developers to make pageload profiling part of their testing routine. 

After the rush of the holidays, I always enjoy a small time of introspection to prepare for the new year. Not only is it wise to challenge yourself for better habits, but spending some extra time evaluating your website is helpful too! Here’s hoping we get a lot done this year and make it easy for our website visitors to do the same!

Nitie Atamenwan