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Why is My Website So @*#$!% Slow?

You worked hard to build your website. You might have even dropped a healthy chunk of cash to have it designed or developed. So why is waiting for your page to load like watching ice melt?

Before you decide to tear into your Internet provider, take a breath. We’ve got some helpful troubleshooting tips that’ll help speed up your site loading time—instead of your heart rate.

Most site speed buzzkills fall into two categories: file size and bandwidth. Or in other words, the amount of data on your site and the ability of your site to deal with large amounts of data transfer.

Let’s first take a look at reducing the bulk.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Megabytes

Sure, maybe the photos and images on your site aren’t a gigabyte in size, but your sluggish load times could be a result of unoptimized images. You’re not alone—this is, by far, the main cause of slow site speeds. Optimizing the photos and other graphics files on your site simply means reducing the file size without sacrificing the image quality. (This process is sometimes referred to as “lossless optimization”.)

Orange being compressed in a vise

Ideally, you should be using JPEG image files (versus larger BMP or TIFF files) under 1MB. Don’t worry if you’ve got a lot of giant images on your site already, it’s pretty easy to optimize your images for the web:

And why use a picture if you don’t have to? Images-as-text (like logos, icons, or text within a graphic) are fun, but replacing a text image with a font solution could help shrink your overall file load. Using text instead of an image file also boosts your SEO, since images can’t be picked up as keyword searches.

Don’t Get Flash-y

Time marches on. Things we thought were ‘The Next Big Thing’ have become, well, ‘The Same Old Thing’ (remember your first iPod?). Such is the case with Flash. This once-ubiquitous site tool was great for interactive content. These days, however, it’s cumbersome and adds a lot of unnecessary bulk to your site (to say the very least).

If you’ve got a lot of Flash content on your page, consider reducing the file size or getting rid of it altogether in favor of HTML5 content. All the cool kids are using HTML5 now. You want to be cool, right? Here’s a handy guide to help you replace Flash with HTML5.

Bad Code. Bad!

Have you looked at your site code lately? Seriously, you should really look at it. Go ahead, we’ll wait…

blurred lines of code

Didn’t look as great as you thought, did it? You may have just discovered one of the big culprits that’s making your site load slowly: dirty code.

Every element in your site is written as lines of code, and dealing with code hogs like JavaScript, HTML, and CSS means your website needs to either execute the additional code or pass the heavy lifting onto your browser. The more big files you put on your website, the more work for the entire system.

If you’ve got a WordPress site, you can tidy things up in one easy sweep by uninstalling themes and plugins you aren’t actively using. In any case, give your poor server a break and clean up your code!

Now that we’ve looked at reducing the bloat and bulk on your website, let’s talk about the second site-slowdown category: bandwidth. Slow sites are heavy sites, but they’re also overworked sites. All that data on your site needs to get sent and received with streamlined efficiency, but sometimes it can seem like you’re pedaling a rusty bike down the Autobahn.

TIP: Want to know if data transfer speeds are your problem? Site speed testers such as Pingdom and  GTMetrix offer site speed diagnostics and suggestions for optimization.

Cache In

Every time your site loads, it needs to find the files and data that make up the page. Caching is the process by which commonly requested data is stored locally, either on your server (server-side caching) or your browser (HTTP caching). Caching frequently accessed data points on your local machine means your site doesn’t waste time looking for them with each and every request. Think of it as speed-dialing for your website.

By using these two caching techniques you’ll end up with speedier page loads, better SEO results, and happier customers.

(Tip: EasyWP from Namecheap automatically does the caching for you so you don’t need to worry about it. Take a look at this article for guidelines about caching things like plugins on EasyWP.)

Your Host Ain’t the Most

Good website hosting providers focus on site security, reliability (uptime), and, for the purposes of this topic, performance. They use the latest server technology to ensure your data is only moving across the latest and greatest hardware, run by the most cutting-edge software. They’ve got plenty of server space and processing power to handle increased traffic and more complex code functionality, and they offer regular server optimization as part of their packages. Performance-wise, they’re literally built for speed.

Or at least they should be.

If you’ve tried everything else and your page load speeds are still sluggish, it may be time to shop around for a better web host. Namecheap has dedicated and shared hosting solutions for nearly every type of site and budget. And if you’re not sure how to choose the best hosting provider, we’ve got you covered there too.

Do You Take Requests?

If you’re a website, you do—in the form of HTTP requests. And with even a moderate amount of site data, the queries can be overwhelming. When a user visits your web page, the browser performs several requests to load every JavaScript, CSS, and image file (for example). Multiply each of these HTTP requests by the number of visitors on your site at any given time and you’ll see how this can quickly and significantly reduce your page load speed.

Whenever possible, then, try to minimize the footprint of these types of files on your pages through HTTP compression. You can also reduce the number of HTTP requests on your site with the help of friendly Sprites. And once again, gold star for you if you’re using EasyWP: thanks to its support for HTTP/2, it helps you to speed up the delivery of website resource files.

Bottom Line

Slow websites could be the result of something as simple as your own hardware, operating system, or CMS. So it’s a good idea to stay current with the latest hardware you use to build your site, the software that supports it, and the platform it lives on. (HINT: if WordPress keeps sending you version update notices, it’s worth paying attention.)

If your site seems to be particularly slow, here are a few things to try before you blame your provider. Have you tried restarting your computer lately? And when was the last time you cleared your browser’s cache? These small, simple steps could make a difference in your site performance. You should also try loading your site from different locations, using different networks, browsers, and platforms (i.e., mobile). The site speed testers mentioned above also provide performance reports to help you understand where your speed issues lie.

If it truly is your lame ISP, at least try to be kind to the customer service rep when you tell them you’re about to take your business elsewhere.

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Basil Harris avatar

Basil Harris

Basil is a senior content writer for Namecheap, Inc. Based in Seattle, he works as a freelance copywriter, actor, teacher, performance and presentation coach, and musician. Against the advice of his friends, children, and personal physician, he’s recently become obsessed with skateboarding and personal electronic transportation gadgets. More articles written by Basil.

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