It may seem like a technical detail, but page speed is not only an important factor to consider for your online store, but it is critical to your online success. You must create an online experience that for your potential customer is a seamless well thought out process. That experience all begins as soon as they enter your site.
Did you know?
According to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that doesn’t load within 3 seconds. 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with website performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again and around 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online.
Those are pretty damning statistics. And ones I can relate to as well. I know when browsing a website if it is slow I am more likely to leave and go back to Google to find a different website offering the same or similar information.
The good news is that there are a few simple plugins and optimizations that you can use to help make sure that your site is performing where it should.
How fast is your site?
First, go ahead and assess your site’s load time and see how much you need to improve. I spoke with our Senior Performance Engineer on our Managed WordPress team, Jason Cosper, and he suggests using one of the following tools called: WebPageTest.org or GTMetrix.com.
Jason said that GTMetrix gives a little more actionable data. Here is a snapshot of my mother’s website that I tested.
You can see that there are multiple views and drop downs which will explain why your site received the scores it does on the performance test. Each one also shows a priority of “high, medium or low” so that you can see which actions will have the most impact.
Now that you know how well your site is performing next you can start taking actions to improve it.
Steps to improve your store’s performance
Any or all of these steps can be taken to help decrease your page load times.
First, let’s talk about images. I have been working in the online world in some capacity since I was 22. I was in politics, but I was in charge of our website and blogged regularly on that site. However, I just learned last week the different times I was supposed to be using a PNG and a JPEG. I happened upon a partner account that was incredibly slow. I reached out to Jason and asked him if he could help our partner find out what was going on. Turned out that most of their images were in PNG form. He told us a simple conversion on each of the images to the correct format would have an immediate effect on performance. He suggested a plugin for help converting images from PNG to the preferred JPEG.
Reduce HTTP Requests
It is also smart to reduce the load of HTTP requests on load and can be done easily with a few different plugins. One of these choices is WP Disable. By default, WordPress will load emoji, embeds, dashicon and a number of other files on initial site load. WP Disable will disable WordPress from loading all of these types of files.
Limit Heartbeat API
Another good optimization technique is to limit the Heartbeat API using a plugin called Heartbeat Control. This simple plugin controls the Heartbeat API and allows Heartbeat intervals to be modified between 15 and 60 seconds between requests, saving on server resources and thus speeding up your site.
Use a Static Cache
An easy way to help the performance of your site is by using a Static Cache plugin. The Cache Enabler plugin creates static HTML files and stores them on the server’s disk. The web server will deliver the static HTML file and avoids the resource-intensive backend processes (core, plugins, and database). This WordPress cache engine will improve the performance of your website.
The WordPress Cache Enabler has the ability to create 2 cached files. One is plain HTML and the other version is gzipped (gzip level 9). These static files are then used to deliver content faster to your users without any database lookups or gzipping as the files are already pre-compressed.
I hear a lot about Autoptimize when talking to my coworkers about website optimization and for good reason. Autoptimize makes optimizing your site really easy. It can aggregate, minify and cache scripts and styles, injects CSS in the page head by default and can move and defer scripts to the footer. It also minifies the HTML code itself, making your page really lightweight. There are advanced options and an extensive API available to enable you to tailor Autoptimize to each and every site’s specific needs.
If you use all of these suggestions along with a clean and optimized theme then your WooCommerce store should load between 700-800ms with only 19-20 HTTP requests on load. I followed my own advice and made these changes to my mom’s site and the results speak for themselves. It is also a bonus that many of these performance suggestions come automatically when you host with Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress. So I didn’t have to do anything extra to optimize her images, enabling Autoptimize or using WP Disable to reduce the HTTP requests.
Here is the snapshot of the before and after:
If you have a big difference in your before and after performance on your WooCommerce store please let me know! I would love to hear how this works for you.
Lindsey Miller is the former Partner Manager for Nexcess Managed WordPress Hosting. She's been involved in various aspects in the WordPress community for over 7 years and helped start a non-profit teaching kids to code, The Div.
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