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Ecommerce Guidelines: Site Speed

Guidelines 92-102

Ecommerce Best Practices » Homepage & Sitewide » Usability » Site Speed

So how fast should your site be? While Jakob Nielsen says people can handle up to 10 second load time, consider this:

  • 47% of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or Jess
  • 57% of visitors will abandon a page that takes 3 seconds or more to load.
  • At peak traffic times, more than 75% of online consumers left for a competitor’s site rather than suffer delays.
  • According fi tolerable waiting time for information retrieval is approximately 2 seconds. Adding feedback, like a progress bar, can push tolerable waiting time to 38 seconds (so if your site is slow, add progress bars or equivalent).
  • A site that loads in 3 seconds experiences 22% fewer page views, a 50% higher bounce rate, and a 22% fewer conversions than a site that loads in 1 second. While a site that loads in 5 seconds experiences 35% fewer page views, a 105% higher bounce rate, and 38% fewer conversions.
  • 8% of people cite slow loading pages as a key reason for abandoning their purchase.

Main point: Faster sites get higher conversions. Improving site speed is part of conversion optimization. It’s often a low-hanging fruit that you can get done right away — improving user experience and revenue at the same time.

I liked that the site was really fast in response times.

I liked how the site flows and was very responsive. I experienced no lag.

I found the most frustrating thing to be that the page was taking a lot of time to load. Apart from that the payment was too many pages long and quite slow to load.

11 guidelines for ecommerce site speed:

  1. Start using a CDN (Content Delivery Network).
  2. Host your static files in the cloud that uses a CDN.
  3. Install Google PageSpeed on your server…
  4. Tell your hosting provider or system admin that you want Memcached installed.
  5. Optimize your images.
  6. Use a fast web host if not your own servers.
  7. Minimize round-trip times (RTTs).
  8. Use caching.
  9. Compress your website with gzip.
  10. Add an Expires header.
  11. Switch off all the plugins or extras that you don’t need or use.

Guideline #92. Start using a CDN (Content Delivery Network).

It’s worth it, especially if you have a decent amount of traffic. Your audience will thank you with extra dollars.

Check out these options:

  • MaxCDN – Lots of people say good things.
  • CacheFly – Another trustworthy provider.
  • Cloudflare – Part CDN, part security tool. We use it on CXL.
  • Inscapsula – similar to Cloudflare, but has shown to offer a much better level of security / protection according to research.

Here’s a great article on how to pick a CDN.


Guideline #93. Host your static files in the cloud that uses a CDN.

Serve static content from a cookieless domain, backed by a CDN. Why cookieless domains? Every time a browser sends an HTTP request, it has to send all associated cookies that have been set for that domain and path along with it. Static content, such as images, javascript and CSS files, don’t need to be accompanied by cookies. You can decrease latency by serving static resources from a domain that doesn’t serve cookies.

Check out these 2 options:


Guideline #94. Install Google PageSpeed on your server.

Tell your web host guys to set it up, you’ll love the results.

PageSpeed improves web page latency and bandwidth usage by changing the resources on that web page to implement web performance best practices. It will automatically apply web performance best practices to web pages and associated assets (CSS, JavaScript, images) without requiring that you modify your existing content or workflow. Plug’n’play.


Guideline #95. Tell your hosting provider or system admin that you want Memcached installed.

Memcached is an open source high-performance distributed memory object caching system intended for use in speeding up dynamic web applications by alleviating database load.

Consult with your system admin first about your particular setup, but in most cases Memcached will be a great help (or alternatively look at Redis).

Unlike PageSpeed, this doesn’t do anything upon installing, so you need to configure your sites to use it. If you use WordPress, it plays nicely with W3 Total Cache plugin and you can set Memcached to do the caching.


Guideline #96. Optimize your images.

Images can be large, and make your website slow to load. That’s why you need to reduce the file size of your photos that you use on your blog posts and other content, logo files, graphics etc. The good thing is that you can significantly reduce image size without compromising quality.

If you use WordPress, use a plugin like EWWW Image Optimizer which optimizes your images as you upload them (can also optimize them in bulk in Media Library).

Everybody else check out Kraken as a great image optimization service.


Guideline #97. Use a fast web host if not your own servers.

Not all web hosts are made equal. In fact, your web host makes a huge difference.

If you have a decent amount of traffic, you should not be on hosts like Bluehost, Hostgator, GoDaddy and other low budget web hosts like that.

  • WP Engine — Web hosting made for WordPress. Blazing fast, fanatic support – stuff that dreams are made of. If you run WordPress and want a fast site, this is it.
  • LiquidWeb — Shared hosting, dedicated hosting, cloud hosting, CDN. They have it all.
  • SingleHop — Best dedicated server host I’ve come across.
  • Hetzner — Best deals on dedicated servers.
  • Storm on Demand — The best priced cloud hosting service out there. Runs CXL too. Great support.

Guideline #98. Minimize round-trip times (RTTs).

RTT refers to all the requests required when a user accesses your website. This is not a size of file issue, but a number of requests issue. Each asset that needs loading — css files, javascript files, images files etc — is requested individually. So your browser sends a request to the web server, which sends information back. The same for each file. That’s why an important strategy for speeding up web page performance is to minimize the number of round trips that need to be made.

Google has a handy manual for doing it all. Here’s a quick summary (have your web guys take care of it):

  • Combine all your javascript files into one to minimize requests. If you’re technically inclined, check out Google Closure Compiler.
  • Combine images with CSS sprites. The higher the number of images used on a page, the more roundtrips there are between visitor’s browser and the web server. Ideally you merge all tiny background images into one, and use CSS to show them. Your front-end developer (CSS guy) should take care of it. Here is a tool to create CSS sprites: Compass.
  • Avoid CSS @import. Instead of @import, use a tag for each stylesheet. This allows the browser to download stylesheets in parallel, which results in faster page load times.
  • Minimize DNS lookups. Avoid using multiple domain names when loading a site.
  • Minimize redirects. If needed, always use http redirects instead of javascript.

Guideline #99. Use caching.

Many caching tools will already take care of the issues mentioned in the guideline for minimizing round-trip times (RTTs). If you use WordPress, you should really take a look at W3 Total Cache plugin.


Guideline #100. Compress your website with gzip.

Compression reduces response times by reducing the size of the HTTP response. Gzipping generally reduces the response size by about 70%. Some caching extensions / plugins do it automatically, sometimes you need to set it up manually at the web server level. Here’s one of many millions of manuals on how to do it.


Guideline #101. Add an Expires header.

Browsers use cache to reduce the number and size of HTTP requests and hence making web pages load faster. A web server uses the Expires header in the HTTP response to tell the browser how long a component can be cached. For static components: implement “Never expire” policy by setting far future Expires header, and for dynamic components use an appropriate Cache-Control header to help the browser with conditional requests.

While most caching systems take care of it, you need to look into it.


Guideline #102. Switch off all the plugins or extras that you don’t need or use.

We see a lot of WordPress sites and other sites that have a ton of plugins, extensions, and tools installed that are actually not used. Many of them require loading different css and javascript files – all that slows down your site. Perform a plugin audit and switch off all the plugins you don’t use. You can also take a quick run through your tag manager to make sure you don’t have anything firing on your site that shouldn’t be.

No sense in having that extra load time for something you don’t use. Don’t be a plugin horder, and clean it up.

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