As a web developer who specializes in ecommerce websites, particularly Woocommerce websites, I am always amazed at the lack of effort or care that is given to website load times. Do you not like converting? Because two – ten second load times is how you lose conversions. Don’t believe me? Amazon.com, Google, Ebay, and other large industry players have all done various studies that attest that slow load times = loss in conversions and less page interaction. From websiteoptimization.com – “Tests at Amazon revealed similar results: every 100 ms increase in load time of Amazon.com decreased sales by 1%” Keeping that 100ms = 1% sales loss in mind, let’s now picture a website with 10 second load times. You can only imagine what types of conversion issues they are faced with. Let’s continue on and look into proper testing of ecommerce websites, and some of the top tips to alleviate your issues.
If you’re going to test website speed, make sure to test under a heavy load…
Okay, you think you’re website is done. Ready for marketing. Wrong. Your probably need to to adjust configurations on your server or website CMS (content management system, i.e. WordPress) to properly increase your website load speed. I don’t know of any e-commerce platforms that come optimized out-of-the-box. How can you track your efforts? or, if your ecommerce website is already launched and marketing, how do you realize if speed is an issue? The answer is a combination of tools. My personal favorite website speed testing website is Pingdom Tools. Check out the screenshot below to view annotations on a result from my own WordPress based website.
Besides Pingdom, the other main diagnostic tool which I use is Loadimpact.com. I use this in conjunction with Pingdom Tools, as they have different information and techniques to their testing structure. With Pingdom, I can see how fast the website loads for 1 user from a predetermined location. It also allows me to see the “waterfall” of files, to pinpoint exactly what is loading slow for my website (any web developer worth his/her weight should be able to fix waterfall issues in a few hours work) With Loadimpact, however, I can see how fast the website loads for 1-50 users from a designated point. Now you understand the name of the website, as it tests the impact of a load of users on your server/website. This is especially relevant for marketers who do viral marketing, or perhaps seasonal specials, and therefore get large surges in traffic. Your ecommerce store may load in 1 second with only 1 visitors, but due to a cheap server hardware/environment, or an improperly coded website, that 1 second could bloat to 15 seconds with 20 visitors. Often times I see surges of 30 – 40 active users in Google Analytics Real-Time, and that many people are taxing to anything but a fully optimized website along with VPS/Dedicated Servers. Your ecommerce Loadimpact test results should be a relatively steady line below 3 seconds, proceeding all the way up to 50 concurrent visitors (you can test more with their premium plan, which I recommend for high volume stores) View the screenshot below of my website on a VPS host, with many optimizations, run through Loadimpact.
Top 5 Speed Improvements for Ecommerce Websites
- Caching. Turn it on and optimize in relation to your server environment and website. It is on Google’s pagespeed best practices
- CDN. A Content Deliver Network such as MaxCDN will take the load off your server of images and many other static files. Very inexpensive, very effective, and very under-utilized by many ecommerce sites.
- Google Libraries. Google will serve one of your largest files for you. For free. Do it. Chances are your website uses Jquery, and Google offers it to everyone who wants it! It’s safe to say that very few companies are faster at serving files on the internet than Google.
- Image optimization. The images that I have in this posted are jpegs. I optimized them significantly using Jpegmini.com Don’t use jpeg’s? Use Tinypng.org for png image files.
- Server. You should not run your ecommerce on a shared hosting environment. You should have a VPS, Dedicated, or Cloud server that is using quality hardware, with sufficient RAM, and preferably SSD (solid state hard drives)