A slow loading website is almost as frustrating as a slow cyclist in front of you when riding through Amsterdam…
Site speed has never been more important than nowadays. With internet being the first channel for people to search on for any kind of information, you are fooling yourself as a company when you think a loading time of 2,5 seconds is fast. The expectations from people regarding site speed are getting higher and higher at a very fast pace. You are not only competing with direct competitors in your branch, but with the whole internet. The fact that Google takes site speed into consideration for creating their rankings shows you can’t ignore it anymore. And the proven correlation between site speed and conversion, should make you passionate about site speed.
It is a team effort
At BookerZzz we knew it was possible to make our website faster, it was just a matter of putting the focus on it. Looking at our labels we decided that we could make the most impact on BungalowSpecials. Therefore we gathered a project group, making sure to include people in it with a wide variety of skill sets. This is because it is not only the way a website is built that can influence the site speed, but also the way of working throughout different departments that can make a big difference to the loading time of a website.
In order to get everyone on board, we needed to make people aware that even small changes can make a website go from slow to average, or even fast, loading time. We created a list of items (e.g. caching settings, loading technologies, third party pixels, size of images, etc.) that could be changed to make the biggest impact for every department. By stimulating various people in different departments to work on site speed and let them check the results of their own doing, it was possible to make them realize what kind of impact they could have.
“I was never really aware that one picture can have so much baggage. Things like GPS location, camera type and applied effects to the photo are all saved in a picture. By simply putting a picture into a converter, that takes all the unnecessary information away, you can easily downsize it by 70%! Doing that with all the pictures I upload on our website, can have a big impact to the overall site speed.”Marouschka – Content & Marketing Department
Besides implementing site speed in the work flow of our Content department, we also analyzed the way we trigger (third party) pixels in our Digital Marketing department. We reviewed which pixels we trigger, when we trigger them and on which webpage. Secondly we restructured the order of events on different pages and prioritized primary and secondary actions. E.g. what is more important; that Google Analytics knows there is a visitor on the website, or that a visitor is able to search the right holiday park? In this case data is your secondary concern. First a webpage needs to be able to load, and then you can start analyzing your visitors.
In the IT department we were finally able to get rid of all the unnecessary elements of the back-end. Back in the day we started our company with HotelSpecials, and later on launched BungalowSpecials by simply copying the structure. This is why the back-end of BungalowSpecials contained a lot of unnecessary logic. Therefore we were able to significantly optimize our search engine. E.g. for result pages that don’t show prices, it is not needed for the back-end to calculate the prices. Besides that we’ve implemented technologies like image lazy loading (also called on-demand loading) and skeleton screens; where the website only starts loading pictures and other content sections when they are needed for the visitor (look at the way Facebook and LinkedIn are loading when you scroll down). Besides a faster loaded page, this also saves you hosting costs for sending less pictures and you are saving your visitors mobile battery from going low.
3 things we’ve learned along the way
- It is not an IT only show
Yes, there was a lot we could change in the backend from an IT point of view, but it was not IT’s doing only. Most of the daily work that impacts the overall site speed lays within other departments. It is important that everyone in the company understands what site speed is and how they can influence it with their work. Changing some of the internal work flows made an impact and will continue optimizing our current site speed even more. Fun fact: at some point working on lowering the site speed started feeling like we were playing a game where we wanted to beat our own high score again and again.
- It made a bigger impact than expected
Because we’ve worked so well together we were surprised on how big the impact actually was at the end. We knew the website could be faster, but we never realized how many aspects we could change in order to achieve it. When reaching the goal of an average site speed of 2 seconds (and sometimes even below 1 second), it was a reason to celebrate. And even better: the changes we’ve made led to a 2.5% direct increase in conversion rate!
- Use more than one tool
There are many tools you could use to check your site speed and the elements that you can still change. Throughout this journey we noticed it was good to use multiple tools and compare the results with each other. Every tool has its pros and cons, and putting them all together gives you the best overview.
The tools we used:
- Webpagetest.org: this is a very complete tool that gives you a lot of detailed information. Perfect for when you want to make a deep dive into your site speed performances;
- Developers.google.com: this is a simple tool. It is not overwhelming you with loads of information and perfect to check your overall site speed performances in one glance;
- Gtmetrix.com: this tool give you the performances on a weekly basis. Handy to look at alongside your other tools;
- Web.dev: also known as the “website performance Bible” of Google. This is the place where Google collects all its information. Next to it being a tool, it is also a collection of the best practices of Google.