It is one of the questions that nags (or should nag) webmasters, developers and site owners: how fast should a page load in 2020? The short answer is “in the shortest time possible”, but is it really possible to quantify this time, especially in view of the growing relevance that is taking this theme for Google and user experience? Here is a guide to site speed, so to make the loading of our pages effective and fluid.

The ideal loading time is 3 seconds

For most websites, having a precise reference can help to better understand the performance: according to Adam Heitzman, in this 2020 the number to keep in mind to know if pages load quickly is 3 seconds, past which you start to define slow loading.

In his article on Search Engine Journal, the expert reports that often it will take many efforts and interventions to improve page speed, So it’s important to have this reference to make sure you have achieved your goal and focus on other areas to optimize.

Loading times of the page and their value

Web pages are uploaded “in pieces”, says Heitzman, so it can happen that “sometimes a photo is uploaded last, or a form first, or an ad will be uploaded first at a point before finally jumping to where it belongs on the page”.

This happens because “all these different elements that make up a web page must be loaded, and this contributes to the overall loading time”. Understanding these aspects is crucial to improve loading times and to meet two requirements that can determine the success of an online project:

  • on one hand there are consumers, who are impatient and do not appreciate the long wait;
  • on the other there is Google, which pushes on the accelerator (in all senses) and that will give even more weight to speed and user experience with core web vitals and the Page Experience Update.

It is no coincidence that, as pointed out by a study by Deloitte, even small improvements in the speed of a site can generate a strong impact in conversions.

How to assess loading time

We know that there are several different tools that we can use to evaluate the overall page loading time of a site, but “in our experience Google Pagespeed Insights is the most comprehensive free tool to get started,” the article says.

Just connect to this page and enter the URL to examine to get a full analysis of the content and an evaluation of all the elements that contribute to weight loading, with advice to improve performance. Basically, we will find out in a few seconds everything that could slow down the site and how and what to do to increase speed, divided by loading analysis on mobile and desktop.

Devices do behave differently and, according to some research, the average web page takes 87 percent more time to load onto mobile devices than desktop devices. The reason is to be found in mobile device processors (on average slower and less performing than desktop ones) and in device-specific CSS rules.

Optimizing and speeding up high-performance pages first

A practical tip that comes from Heitzman is to focus the initial optimization effort on the set of high-performance pages that are central to site performance: In fact, it is easier to work on improving only the speed of a page than to act immediately on the whole site, and in addition these interventions can immediately give a further positive impact to our key pages.

How to enhance the speed of the pages

Once the analysis on Pagespeed Insights has been performed and we obtained the roadmap of interventions to improve loading time, it is time to roll up our sleeves and work; in most cases, warns the expert, we will have “need the help of a developer to remove certain codes that could slow down the site and there are so many things to consider”.

Often, however, there are also “low-hanging fruits”, easy options to focus our attention on, which can be arranged in a short time and with good impact.

Enhancing image loading times

One of the most critical elements related to page loading is undoubtedly represented by images, and there are at least three different aspects that we need to evaluate – as we have already seen in this in-depth analysis between images and performance.

A simple method to not sacrifice quality for speed is to use the Lazyload system, which allows you to initially load only the images actually present in the part of the screen displayed by the user (without loading the entire Web page at the same time).

Optimizing image sizes

Equally simple and relevant is the work to reduce the “physical” weight of images, which is basically one of the best practices for image optimization. In addition to the standard procedures, Heitzman gives direct advice to those who manage a responsive site: it is always better to upload only images of the size that are really needed.

Even if the images will adapt to the parameters set by the site to serve a resource of good quality, the lower the pixel density, the faster the image will be loaded. And so, the author said, “don’t just make your web work, because it wouldn’t be great for speed”.

Optimizing image formats

Finally, even the image file format can have an impact on the loading time: in principle, it may be preferable to use next-gen formats such as JPEG 2000 or Webp instead of the more classic and heavy . PNG or .JPG.

For projects already started and with many images, a practical solution could be to consider converting the format at least of the larger images to assess the actual improvements, and then proceed progressively with the remaining resources.

Tips to optimize the content

The work of optimizing the site to make it faster passes, although to a lesser extent, even from small interventions on onpage content: for example, using internal links and breadcrumb can help to improve the user experience and, at the same time, facilitate the understanding of search engine crawlers, thus improving speed.

Reducing the number of redirects

Each time a page is redirected to another, it increases the waiting time for the HTTP request: for optimal management, therefore, it would be better to reduce the number of redirects and direct users directly to the final resource, because “every second counts!”.

Choosing the right hosting

If you are using a mediocre or low quality web hosting provider, you should consider switching to a more robust hosting solution. Even this aspect, alone, can have a huge impact on page loading times.

The value of the work on speed

According to various researches, most websites have a page loading time of around 6 seconds, twice the average speed suggested as a “milestone” for good performance.

In fact – unless we start from scratch – reducing the page speed to 3 seconds or less is a very difficult best practice to achieve, which requires a lot of work and a lot of time.

The final advice is to focus on these elements and check the speed of the pages at least once a month to monitor any changes that might occur, and that will almost inevitably occur when we add new web pages and plug-ins to the site, remembering that all these efforts can be repaid in terms of conversions and user satisfaction.

 

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