May 23, 2024 Written by Tamar Barlev

Troubleshooting Web Development: High Page Load Time

Let’s face it: waiting for a slow website to load is about as fun as watching paint dry. In an age where we can get groceries delivered in under an hour, our patience for sluggish page load time is nonexistent. High page load times can frustrate users and send them running to your competitors faster than you can say “buffering.” So, let’s dive into some common culprits behind slow websites and how you can speed things up.

What is Page Load Time?

In web development, a page load time is the time it takes for a webpage or web app to display and fully render on a user’s browser, including images, text, and scripts. Essentially, it’s the digital equivalent of the time you spend waiting for your favorite coffee shop to make your order. And just like a long wait for your coffee can ruin your morning, a high page load time can spoil the user experience on your site.

What is a Good Page Load Time?

Now, you might be wondering what counts as a “good” page load time. Generally, here’s what you should aim for:

  • Under 2 Seconds: Ideally, your website should load in under 2 seconds. This is the benchmark where most users will stick around without getting impatient—which is why Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool qualifies anything under 2 seconds as “good”.
  • 2-3 Seconds: This range is acceptable, but not ideal. While users might wait a little longer, you risk increased bounce rates if your site consistently falls into this range.
  • Over 3 Seconds: Anything over 3 seconds is usually considered slow. At this point, users are likely to get frustrated and are 32% more likely to bounce (vs. 1 second), which will negatively impact your conversions and overall user experience.

Remember, these benchmarks can vary depending on your audience and the type of content you’re delivering. For example, e-commerce sites may need to load faster due to high user expectations, while content-heavy sites might have a bit more leeway.

Impact of Page Load Time on Users

A slow website is more than just an annoyance. It can have real, tangible impacts on user behavior and business outcomes. Here’s how:

  • User Experience: UX for websites is more than just web design. If it takes your web page more than a few seconds to load, users are very likely to get frustrated and leave. This is especially true for mobile users, who often expect even faster load times—so for them, a 500ms delay results in a 26% increase in peak frustration and up to an 8% decrease in engagement.
  • Bounce Rates: High page load times can increase bounce rates. Users may abandon your site if it doesn’t load quickly, potentially leading to lost conversions and sales.
  • SEO Rankings: Because UX is a factor in SEO, search engines take page load time into account when ranking sites. A slow website can decrease your SEO rankings, making it harder for users to find you.
  • Reputation: Consistently slow load times can damage your brand’s reputation. Users may perceive your business as outdated or unprofessional if your website isn’t up to speed.

Factors That Impact Page Load Time

Several factors can influence how quickly—or slowly—your website loads. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Server Performance: The quality and capacity of your web server play a crucial role. If your server is slow or overwhelmed, your website will be too.
  • File Sizes: Large files, such as high-resolution images and videos, can significantly increase load times.
  • Code Efficiency: Clean, well-written code can speed up load times, while bloated, inefficient code can slow things down.
  • Number of Requests: Each element on your webpage (like images, scripts, and stylesheets) requires a separate request to the server. More requests mean longer load times.
  • Caching: Effective use of caching can reduce load times by storing parts of your website for faster access.
  • Third-Party Scripts: Embedding content from other sites can slow down your load times, as your website must wait for those elements to load.

Causes of a High Page Load Time (and how to fix them)

Bloated Code: Less is More

If your website were a person, bloated code would be the equivalent of carrying around a backpack full of rocks. Unnecessary or poorly written code can bog down your site. Keep it clean, concise, and efficient. Use tools like HTML and CSS validators to tidy up your code. Minifying your JavaScript and CSS files can also work wonders by reducing the file size without compromising functionality.

Large Media Files: The Silent Killers

We all love high-resolution images and videos, but they can be major speed bumps. Compressing images and videos without losing quality is crucial. There are plenty of tools out there—like TinyPNG for images and HandBrake for videos—that can help reduce file sizes. Also, consider lazy loading for images, so they only load when they’re about to be viewed.

Server Performance: Your Website’s Engine

Think of your server as the engine powering your website. If it’s outdated or overwhelmed, your site’s performance will take a hit. Invest in a good hosting provider and make sure your server has enough resources to handle your traffic. Sometimes, a simple upgrade can drastically improve page load time.

Caching: Your New Best Friend

Caching can significantly reduce your page load time. When a user visits your site, caching stores parts of your website so that the next time they visit, it loads much faster. So, use browser caching, a content delivery network (CDN), and server-side caching to keep things fast.

Too Many Plugins: Not Always Better

True, plugins can add to the functionality to your site, but too many can slow it down. It’s like having too many apps open on your phone—eventually, something’s got to give. Regularly review your plugins, deactivate the ones you don’t need, and keep the essential ones updated to ensure optimal performance.

External Embedded Media: Proceed with Caution

Embedded media from third-party sites can also drag your site’s speed down. While embedding videos, social media feeds, and other content can be engaging, it’s a good idea to do so sparingly. Each external resource adds an extra step for your website to load, which can slow things down.

Unoptimized Scripts: Tidy Up for Speed

JavaScript and CSS are fantastic for adding functionality and style to your website, but they can be problematic if not managed well. Defer non-essential JavaScript, place your CSS in external files, and consider asynchronous loading to prevent render-blocking issues that increase load times.

Summing Up High Page Load Time

High page load time isn’t just a minor inconvenience; it’s a potential deal-breaker for users. By addressing these common issues, you can make sure that your website renders quickly and keeps visitors happy. These days, every fractional second counts—so, roll up your sleeves, give your site the tune-up it deserves, and watch those load times drop.

But, we know this is all a lot. If you need some help with speeding up your website, reach out to us—we’d love to help 🙂