5 Ways to Boost your eCommerce Website performance
Growing markets and increasing competition make eCommerce store owners hunt up the ways to stand out from the crowd and influence customers’ behavior forcing them to make purchases. However, one of the major factors that hamper sales is slow website performance.
According to the Radware research, it takes 3 seconds for a visitor to abandon a website if its page does not load quickly. Moreover, 79% of customers who are not satisfied with website performance are not likely to purchase from the store again. On top of everything, when it comes to search engine optimization, speed is a direct ranking factor as Google won’t let websites with a slow performance show up on top search results.
In the eCommerce world where every second count, if a website is slow, every business metric suffers: daily attendance rate, conversions, bounce rate, search ranking, page views, and, above all, sales and revenue. Even a one-second delay in page response can result in a 7% decrease in conversions.
Sounds like web performance is vital, doesn’t it? In this article, we will identify the common mistakes eCommerce store owners make and outline the ways to improve web performance and speed.
How to Identify Main Performance Issues for Faster Website Speed Optimization?
Performance is completely measured by data. The easiest way to measure the metric is to test it using analytics tools for eCommerce which are designed for webmasters and store owners to monitor their projects providing up-to-date performance optimization.
Here are some tools that can be used to keep track of your website performance:
The tool made by Google not only reports on the speed of the page on desktop and mobile devices but provides actionable recommendations on how the page must be improved to achieve better results. The main feature of Google PageSpeed Insights is providing both field and lab data. The last one is based on a simulated load page on a mid-tier device (Moto G4) and a fixed set of network conditions. The lab data can be used for debugging performance issues. As for the field data, it is a kind of historical report on how a URL has performed and is based on anonymized performance data from real-world users on different devices and network conditions. The data is useful for determining true user experience. Putting together and analyzing both data, the user can get a complete picture of the website’s performance.
It is an easy-to-use online tool that is used to test sites load time assigning the results in grades from A to F and providing lots of details about specific issues of your site, for instance, it offers details about which aspects take the most time to load to understand the tweaks to be made.
Apart from providing a full page speed test to get an overview and detailed report on how a website performs, the tool has a variety of other helpful features. For instance, the HTTP/2 test for verifying if a URL is delivered via the HTTP/2 protocol.
Now that you know how to test your eCommerce store performance using various tools, let’s take a closer look at what aspects of the website should be tuned and what steps should be taken to improve performance optimization.
#1 Improve Your Hosting Solution
The type of hosting, as well as the density and load of its physical servers, are common culprits when it comes to eCommerce stores performance. The lack of hosting resources causes a decrease in site performance and long downtimes resulted in an inevitable loss of potential customers and sales revenue.
The choice of a hosting solution depends on how large a store is (the amount of outbound traffic it receives, the number of orders and visitors per day), as well as the CMS it is based on. Thus, for instance, a large or middle-sized store based on Magento CMS is not a match with simple shared hosting. To host such a store, you need at least scalable VPS, cloud, or dedicated hosting which can manage traffic spikes during the sales or holiday seasons.
#2 Reduce Server Response Time and the Number of HTTP requests
The high number of server requests negatively affects key metrics that determine how well your audience is engaging with your store. The more requests and the longer the response time is, the longer it takes to a page to be loaded. Every JS and CSS file, every script, stylesheet, embedded video, or image means one additional HTTP request.
Reducing server requests requires changes on the back-end of the website. But what these changes should depend on the complex audit aimed at showing the aspects of your website that slow down the performance.
To minimize server request webmasters may do the following:
- Remove unnecessary images or optimize them by combining several images into a single image with CSS sprites technique (there are some tools – Spritegen, CSS Sprite Tool – that allow you to combine images in one file).
- Optimize your database. As far as your website accumulates information, the massive amount of data stored in your database is the bottleneck of the system. The database or an improperly configured DB server can become a real issue when the queries take too long. The process of website database optimization includes removing useless entries, switching to flat catalogs to reduce DB queries, updating the database version, adding indexes to large tables, and other arrangements.
- Configure caching to ensure fast delivery to visitors by reusing files during future visits. For instance, you can install Redis (PDF) which is an open-source, in-memory, data structure server. It can be used as a distributed server cache or a database where frequently needed data is stored.
- Minify and compress the size of the code by removing redundant and long variables, comments, unwanted characters.
- Eliminate bloatware (programs, plugins, applications that take up space without providing value).
#3 Use third-party extensions
In addition to the default functionality, there are a lot of extensions available for improving eCommerce website performance. With performance extensions, you can tweak some parts of code, leverage browser caching, optimize image size, optimize a website for specific use cases, minify HTML/JS/CSS (somewhat) and fix the most obvious issues with performance.
However, take into account that the extensions are not the magic pill for all website problems, do not expect them to solve anything complicated. No extension can understand the codebase as well as experienced developers.
Moreover, every new extension adds a separate HTTP request to the server. It takes more time for the server to process the request, which affects the page load speed. Thus, using performance extensions is not a good idea if your online store has a complex code structure, you have already loaded lots of third-party extensions, or your CMS is highly customized. For instance, for Magento powered eCommerce stores that are kind of hard to optimize for performance, third-party extensions can be the reasons for more issues than they can fix. Here, it is reasonable to entrust the optimization process to a company providing Magento performance optimization services.
#4 Switch to Elasticsearch
Elasticsearch is an open-source search engine and distributed document store that stores and retrieves data structures. It was developed in 2010 and its full-text search engine written in Java. Elasticsearch is a mainstream tool that is used by many leading eCommerce brands to store, analyze, and search a large amount of data on-the-fly.
As far as search is one of the major features of the store, Elasticsearch provides eCommerce store owners with an opportunity to increase both perceived and real performance. It is a great strategy for delivering fast user experience without spending a lot of money.
Elasticsearch works with every CMS regardless of whether it is WooCommerce, Shopify or Magento and can be extremely helpful for those online stores that run unacceptably slow due to heavy querying which overloads the site’s database. As a bonus, Elasticsearch has a curious feature – it understands complex search queries much better than default search.
#5 Use Lazy Loading for Faster Loading of Media Content
The proportion of video, audio, and images in the typical payload of an eCommerce website can be huge. But store owners may be unwilling to remove media content from their websites. Lazy Loading (or on-demand loading) can do magic here. It is a technique of media content optimization that defers the loading of “non-critical” or “off-screen” files until the moment of need. Depending on the settings, the pattern can occur on various moments in the application, but it commonly happens on some kind of user interaction such as scrolling, clicking, or navigation.
As far as we may load the stuff the user may never see, this poses a problem for several reasons:
- It wastes battery and other system resources;
- It wastes data (critical for users on limited data plans).
Lazy Loading of images and video if properly and appropriately used can reduce both initial page weight and initial load time, all of which positively affect performance.
However, the use of the technique has several pitfalls. First, its implementation requires the extra lines of code to be added to the existing ones, which make it complicated. Second, the pattern may affect your search engine ranking somewhat, due to the probability of improper indexing of the unloaded content.
Undoubtedly, it is hard for no tech-savvy business owners to define which aspects of the website need to be fixed. Not to mention that not everyone can optimize an eCommerce store for better speed and performance. There are a lot of issues that may turn into bottlenecks and if you think your website works the wrong way, it is better to look for a company providing optimization services with solid expertise in website development and optimization.