How (and why) we build sites with fast load speeds
From mobile phones to desktops, everyone expects faster websites. We deliver.
As the speed and reliability of the Internet has increased, the expectations of those using it have also grown. Once stuck waiting for a dial-up connection that could be interrupted by a phone call, many users today expect near-instantaneous site load speeds, even on older computers and on mobile platforms with poor connections. Most of us just aren’t willing to wait for a slow website, and we’ll go elsewhere to get the information we need.
No matter what your business on the web is, you need a fast website—or you could quickly find yourself left behind. In this post, we’ll discuss what impacts website load speed, what makes 5 Fold’s websites faster, and why it’s so important to keep racing to faster-and-faster speeds.
What makes a website’s load speed fast or slow?
As with everything on the Internet, websites are made of data elements that have a physical source, such as a server. The speed it takes to retrieve data from a server impacts site speed. This is why 5 Fold has a dedicated server that we don’t have to share with other companies or users; incidentally, this also improves the security of our websites.
The content on the website also impacts load speeds and times. For example, text loads quickly, while larger files—such as photos, videos, and music—take longer to load. As such, a web page that has only text will probably load faster than a page with multiple photo galleries, even if the former isn’t much to look at and may not capture much reader attention. However, there’s another way. We utilize a Content Delivery Network—also known as a “CDN”. Essentially, a CDN stores the pre-loaded images for a website on a server, and has them ready to go. Our CDN is stored on Amazon’s servers, for instance: they have one of the largest server storage systems in the world. When a user loads the site, the CDN pushes the images to the website at a much faster speed than we could load from our server. The result is that our sites can carry vibrant, eye-catching images without compromising too much load speed. There are some instances in which our server is faster than the CDN, but our system gives us the ability to go with whichever is moving quicker.
What are some other steps 5 Fold takes to make load speeds faster?
Using a dedicated server, a Content Delivery Network, and optimizing sites allows us to make our sites fast. However, every fraction of a second counts, and that’s why we employ even more tricks and tactics to shave small parts of a second off of our load speeds. Like an Olympic athlete, these small improvements in time can make a big difference in keeping users on their path to the site.
We limit the number of images on a page, and the length and size of our pages overall. This is actually a good strategy for not only speed, but for site accessibility: our research—which industry experts confirm—shows that very few people actually navigate all the way down a page. Having a 3,000 word page with dozens of images is not only slow to load, but it’s probably ineffective; the site might be better served by spreading the information on that page across multiple pages, or by leaving it out entirely. At 5 Fold, we aim for 1,000-1,500 words per page, with a handful of images to make the page visually engaging. With this ‘less-is-more’ strategy, we’re able to build faster sites as a part of our all-in-one marketing packages.
We also compress image files down and reduce their physical size to the exact parameters of the space, and to reduce the size of files. This ensures that we’re only using the file space that we absolutely need to. Compression is a way of reducing the data in an image without impacting quality. All images are made up of pixels, and most images today contain, potentially thousands of colors: ever-so-slight variants on blues, reds, and whites that make up the fabric of everyday life, yet are indistinguishable to the human eye. Compression tells the photo to consolidate all these very-alike blues into a single blue, cutting down on the length of code and the file size. The result is a faster-loading image that looks no different than the original.
Security also matters. By keeping our software up-to-date and eliminating instances of malware, we’re able to boost the speed of our sites. Finally, we also cache content, allowing for quick access to websites.
How fast can load speeds actually get?
In the past twenty years, we’ve gone from slow-as-molasses dial-up connections to lighting-fast pages accessible on smartphones. However, with many load times getting between 1-2 seconds, there’s a question of how much faster things can truly get. Information still needs to be transferred, after all, and most would see things that happen within a second to be instantaneous. However, perhaps the next few years will see advances in how fast elements on a page can load, allowing video or photo-heavy pages to load at the same speed that text-only ones do now.
At 5 Fold, we’re constantly testing how fast our sites are. We’ll continue to keep an eye on advances in the field and improvements in page load speeds. That’s part of our commitment to continually improve marketing campaigns on behalf of clients. Have a question for us in the meantime, or are you interested in learning more about the websites we build? Give us a call, or contact us online.