When it comes to your website, speed is king. You can have the best looking website in the world, but if it is slow to load people will click away before ever having a chance to consume your content. According to Kissmetrics 47% of people expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less and 40% of people will abandon a website altogether if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Having a low page load speed is crucial to making sure that potential visitors are able to find the information that they are looking for. Here are a few things that you can do to speed up your church’s website.
The first step is to analyze how your website is performing. My favorite tool for analyzing page load speed is Pingdom. I use this to check on our company websites as well as websites for clients. This will give you a pretty good idea of what you can do to make your website load faster. The important thing to remember with this tool is that you will need to analyze each page individually. Don’t just focus on your homepage.
Optimize Your Images
The most common issue that slows down church websites are images that are too big. I’ve had clients in the past who’ve had their websites professionally designed but couldn’t understand why their websites were so slow. One client’s website took over 20 seconds to load due to almost 30 Megabytes of images. After about 30 minutes of work optimizing their images, I was able to get their load time to under 3 seconds. That’s a huge win! You can optimize your images in a few ways depending on the tools available to you.
If you have Photoshop learning how to export your images correctly for web will make a huge difference. Always save your images at the smallest resolution possible. Most high quality images that you get from photographers are going to have an incredibly high resolution. My DSLR spits out images at over 5000 pixels wide which is way too big for anything that I use for web. Cutting that down to 1920 pixels or smaller makes a huge difference on image file size.
You can also help shave off some size by reducing the quality of the image. I typically save my JPEG images at 60% quality which reduces the file size without having a huge impact on the overall quality. Most people will never be able to tell the difference. For instance, if I took an image from Unsplash that weighed in at 5184×3486 and a whopping 7 MB and used these techniques I would end up with an image that is 1920×1280 and only 213 KB.
If you don’t have a tool like Photoshop available you can use a couple of free online tools to help get the job done. You can resize images with http://imageresize.org/ and reduce the quality by using tinyjpg.com. It takes a little longer and requires a few more steps, but it will definitely help you out in a pinch.
Use Caching or a Content Delivery Network
For most people simply optimizing your images will be more than enough to get your page load time under 3 seconds. However, if you’re still experiencing slow load times there is more that you can do. Most websites load information dynamically using backend programming languages like PHP. This allows you to have more dynamic websites, but it can lead to slower load times. The way to combat this is to using caching or a content delivery network (CDN).
If your website is built on WordPress you can utilize free plugins like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache. I’ll avoid going into the technical details, but this makes a static copy of your website that loads instead of forcing a user’s browser to dynamically load all of the content. If you don’t use WordPress, you can still take advantage of caching technology by using a CDN. I recommend checking out Cloudflare, it’s pretty simple to set up and they have a free version.
I will note that caching plugins and CDN’s can be extremely annoying. Anytime you make a change, you will have to refresh the cache. Personally, I’m not a huge fan because of the hassle, but they can be incredibly valuable if you’re more patient than I am.