Back in the days before high-speed Internet access became widely available, websites were often designed to optimally load as fast as possible based on a users’ connection speed. Quite often, page load times were considered above design and even content concerns by web developers.
As the pipe got fatter, speed became less relevant and so did concern in much of the development community for web page load time. Pre-loading Flash sites and beautifully designed graphics dominated the landscape as brand image finally ascended to the forefront for many online marketers.
However, while this movement was happening, the importance of page load times actually was growing. No less an authority than Google continued to track and display their search load times in an effort to provide the best results and experience for their users. Google understood that the importance of speed for online users has actually increased while their patience and attention span has dropped dramatically. The convergence of mobile technology and the constantly-connected work flow has only helped to further define this movement.
Educated online marketers have always understood that the faster you can answer a customer’s needs, the better chance you have of building or maintaining a relationship with them. A fast site has also taken a larger role in Google’s search algorithm, making speed another piece of the pie along with relevance, topicality, reputation, value-add, etc. To get to that peak state, you have to optimize your site for speed.
Although there are many options, one great free tool that I’ve had good success with is Page Speed from Google, which is a family of tools for optimizing the performance of web pages. I prefer the Page Speed browser extensions, available for Chrome and Firefox, which allow you to evaluate the performance of your web pages and to get suggestions on how to improve them. These extensions and the Page Speed online version run performance tests based on a set of best practices known to reduce page load time.
Page Speed provides a detailed list of suggested improvements for your site, including extensive explanations and even how-to examples. As you implement any of these suggestions, you can re-run Page Speed and see immediately the impact on your page load time. It’s a great way to implement expert advice that was previously difficult to find and even more difficult to afford. It’s also a terrific way to make your site even more relevant to Google and your customers.