The speed at which your law firm’s website loads can have a tremendous impact on how your visitors react to it. We live in a world of instant gratification, and that’s exactly what visitors expect. A one second delay can be the difference between someone staying and looking through your content, or leaving.
Research shows that many users will completely abandon a website that takes more than four seconds to load. Data gathered from some of the largest sites on the Internet proves that, across the board, revenue, page views, and conversions all increase dramatically when page load speed is reduced by as little as one second.
The key to faster load times is often a combination of good site design and proper web server configuration. The right server configuration can improve physical response times, while site design factors will affect how long it takes the end user’s browser to process and render your firm’s site on their screen.
Test Your Website Speed Before You Tweak
The first thing you should do if you want to improve the speed of your law firm’s website is make an initial test so you can measure the effects of any changes you make.
An excellent way to test page and server speed is with Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This free tool will analyze your website, show you any problems it finds, and even offer some suggestions on how to improve things.
5 Easy Ways to Improve Website Speed
Once you have your initial speed test results, it’s time to look over your site and server to see where you might be able to make improvements. Following are several suggestions that can lead to a significant reduction in server response and page load times.
What, exactly, you can do with your site and server will depend greatly on where your site is hosted and how willing your host and/or site administrator is to work with you. Some of the following options require configuration changes to the software that runs your web server. If your site is on a shared hosting server, the host may not be able to make some changes for you without adversely affecting other customers on the same server. You’ll need to speak with your host or site admin to see exactly what can or can’t be changed.
Reduce the Number of HTTP Requests
When a user comes to your web site, their web browser is downloading files from your server and processing them in order to render what the user sees as your web site. For each file that makes up your website, the browser has to make another HTTP request to the server. Each HTTP request slows down the page load time.
You can reduce the number of HTTP requests by combining separate design elements like style sheets and graphics. Your web designer should be able to help with this. There are also free plugins available for platforms like WordPress that can help reduce the number of files that get sent to visitors.
Enable File Compression
Modern web servers and browsers have the ability to exchange compressed files, but the option needs to be enabled on the web server.
When file compression is turned on, the web server will compress files before they are sent to the user and then the browser will uncompress and process the files when received. Depending on the type of files being sent, this can result in a size reduction of up to 90%. Smaller files, obviously, will be transferred faster, reducing load time.
Enable Browser Caching
All web browsers have a caching function that will store files on a visitor’s local hard drive in order to minimize HTTP requests and improve page load times. How long the browser stores these files is determined by information sent from the web server. More specifically, whenever the web server sends a file to a browser, it first sends what is called a header that includes information about the file, including how long it can be cached.
A good example of a file that is a prime candidate for caching is a graphical logo. Let’s say you have a logo that appears on the top of every page on your firm’s website. Without caching, the user’s browser will have to download that file over and over each time the user moves from one page to another. With caching turned on, the file will be downloaded once, the first time the user visits the site, and then retrieved from the cache whenever it is needed again. This saves a significant amount of time.
The largest files on a website are usually the images. From logos and design elements to pictures included in blog posts, images can range from just a few kilobytes up to several megabytes. The majority of the load time on most websites comes from the browser downloading image files.
Again, plugins are available for many platforms, including WordPress, that will optimize images for you. You can also reduce images yourself using just about any image processing software before you upload them to your website. Depending on the image you are working with, it’s possible to reduce the file size anywhere from 10% to about 80% without sacrificing visual quality.
Prune Plugins Wherever Possible
With platforms like WordPress, it’s easy to let your site become overloaded with unnecessary, and even unused, plugins. With every plugin that’s installed, your site takes a performance hit. Each plugin is at least one more process that the web server needs to deal with when someone visits your site. This, naturally, will slow down page load times.
It’s good practice to make a point of going through your content management system every so often and disabling or removing any plugins that are not absolutely needed for the site to function properly.
Consider Speed for Future Updates
The suggestions listed above should help you to achieve acceptable page load speeds for your law firm’s website. If you want things to stay that way, though, you’ll need to keep speed and load times in mind as your firm’s site continues to evolve.
It’s much easier to do things right the first time than it is to go back and fix them later. If you consider speed as you post new pictures, implement new designs and shop for new hosts, your firm will always be traveling in the fast lane.