How fast is fast enough? What is a page loading time you should aim for? How Fast Should Your Site Load?
The short answer: under two seconds.
Where does that number come from? Well, first of all as we have seen above that’s what close to half of the users expect of their web experience. In addition to that, two seconds is also the cutoff point Google stated for e-commerce sites in 2010.
In addition to that, according to Pingdom, if your site loads within 1.7 seconds, it is faster than 75 percent of sites on the Internet. Standing out from the crowd is always a good way to get noticed.
Below two seconds is a solid goal to shoot for. The faster the better. If you can get below that, by all means – go for it! Nobody is going to complain that your site loads just too damn fast.
What Affects Page Loading Speed?
As central as it is, it’s probably no surprise that website speed is a complex topic hinging on many different factors. Let’s go over them.
1. Server and Hosting Technology
At the very bottom of how quickly a page load is a server it is hosted on, it’s location and your Shared hosting plan. Let’s start with the latter.
Generally, there are three different types of hosting:
- Shared hosting — That means your site lies on the same server as a number of other websites and needs to share its resources (processing power, RAM) with everyone else. This can lead to “bad neighbor” effects where one site is hogging the majority of resources and downtimes due to overload.
- Virtual private server (VPS) — With this type of hosting, you usually have fewer sites on the same server. In addition, resources are allocated evenly across all sites present without the option to exceed them.
- Dedicated server — You have one server just for you. There are no resources to share, everything is at the disposal of just your site.
In addition to the type of hosting, the technology used in the servers (both hardware and software) is also important. For example, does your server use the latest versions of PHP, HTML and other web techs? How about SSD hard drives? How much memory does it have? All that factors into how quickly it can serve up your website files.
Finally, another thing that matters is the server location. Naturally, the closer it is to the visitor requesting your site, the faster it can serve up your page. As fast as technology has become, shooting bytes through a cable under the ocean still takes longer than moving it across the net in the same country.
Because of that, if you put some of the techniques in this article into practice, it might only marginally increase the speed of your site in your own location. It could make a world of difference for someone accessing it from halfway around the globe.
2. WordPress and Its Components
Next up in the factors that influence your page loading speed is the software powering your site. In our case, we are talking about WordPress. The same is true for other content management systems.
While WordPress is great at its job, there are ways to build websites that are naturally faster than using a CMS. For example, in the past, sites were built with pure HTML. When you do so, browsers can access and process the site immediately without any processing necessary.
In contrast to that, with a CMS like WordPress, pages are created “dynamically”. That means, a PHP application (WordPress) pulls data from a MySQL database and then generates HTML code from PHP templates to deliver it to the browser.
These extra steps take some time and make your site slower to load (however, using CMS has other advantages that make up for it). In addition to that, WordPress comes with themes, plugins and other add-ons. While these make it more powerful, they can also slow down the site as they add more code that needs to be loaded.
3. The End User’s Device
The final link in the chain that determines how quickly your site pops up on a user’s screen is the device he/she uses to access it.
In modern web design, a lot of the processing happens on the site of the client, meaning in the browser. For that reason, both the hardware and software configuration available at the destination plays a big role in page load time.
This is especially important because, as we already settled, the majority of users today access the web via mobile devices. These not only have less processing power than many desktop computers but often suffer from slower Internet connections. While that is nothing you can influence, it is important to keep in mind when trying to build a fast site.
How to Test Site Speed
The problem with website speed is that you, as the administrator, often have a skewed view of it. Just because it loads fast on your computer, it doesn’t mean it does for everyone.
In fact, one of the reasons why your site is probably quicker to load for you is because you spend a lot of time on it. That way, your browser caches its static elements on your hard drive, making it unnecessary to load them again when you view your site.
However, for anyone who doesn’t have the same data on their computer, the experience will be very different. Plus, as we have just learned, users in different locations might also have different loading speeds.
For that reason, you need some objective measures. Thankfully, there are some excellent tools out there for this. The ones we recommend are GTmetrix and Pingdom. Both allow you to test your site from different server locations. In fact, it’s a good idea to sign up for a free GTmetrix account so you can get more detailed metrics and save your reports – it also is necessary if you want to automate monitoring your site’s performance.
Both tools provide a detailed breakdown of everything that slows down your site. We will refer to them often in the upcoming sections.