Did you ever send something by email to someone while you are talking on the phone with them? As soon as you say you sent it, you’re likely to hear “I didn’t get it yet.” How our expectations have changed.
150 years ago, Pony Express was a fast way to get information to someone. The first air mail was about 100 years ago, 40 years ago you could get overnight delivery with Fedex, and fax machines became popular about 25 years ago as a way to get information to someone within a few minutes.
Just a few years ago the only thing we did on a phone was make phone calls. I’m not sure we should even call the mobile devices we use phones any more – one study found that making calls was the fifth most frequent use of a smartphone. You probably spend more time browsing the internet, using social media, playing games and listening to music on your smartphone.
We expect all of this to happen instantly as well! With the shift to mobile devices, speed of delivering information is important. Google uses load time as a search engine ranking factor, and the longer the page takes to load, the more likely users will abandon the site.
Google and Facebook have recognized that slow-loading content on mobile devices is a huge issue and opportunity. Both have recently introduced formats for getting content to load quicker on mobile.
Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, is Google’s initiative to create better performance in the mobile web space. AMP pages are lightweight HTML designed to load fast. AMP pages are hosted on your own site, while Google caches the results. Google is encouraging publishers to adopt the format. It is not yet a ranking signal, but Google is highlighting AMP pages in mobile search results.
AMP is an open source format and you configure your website to display these pages. Tools are being developed to make integration into existing website platforms like WordPress easier.
Facebook Instant Articles
Instant Articles allows publishers to create fast, interactive articles on Facebook. Facebook’s goal is to create a faster, richer experience to view news content. According to Facebook, it takes an average of eight seconds to load shared articles on their platform, which makes it the slowest loading content on Facebook to date. With the roll out of Instant Articles, this reading experience will now be ten times faster than the standard mobile web article. Instant Articles will help businesses grow their users on Facebook and engage with their audience by giving them a better experience.
What About Your Website?
As a business owner, what can you do to make sure your site loads quickly on mobile? You can integrate Instant Articles and AMP into your website as the developer tools are available. Solutions to allow non-technical users to integrate these features should be more widely available soon. In the meantime, here are some other steps you can take to make your site faster.
Optimize your images
If your new phone has a 12 megapixel camera, uploading full photos to your website is not helping and can drastically slow down your mobile load time. Size your images only as large as your blog content width. Crop your images and save as web versions to compress file sizes. WordPress automatically creates smaller files sizes of the images you upload, so choose a smaller size where appropriate.
Cheap hosting is not always best
A large part of server response time is based on your hosting company’s equipment and server configuration. Bottom line, cheap hosts do not always give you enough resources or optimize their servers for response time for your website platform. While you can save a little up front, the savings will not be worth it if you lose visitors due to slow loading times. Invest in a quality web host to ensure visitors can view your site without becoming frustrated by the slow load time and ultimately leaving.
Use a lightweight theme
WordPress powers about 25% of the web, and there are a wide variety of themes available for it. Know what you want your theme to do before you choose. You may be tempted to opt for a theme with loads of features and fancy effects, but realize that some themes make hundreds of requests per page and load large script files, while others use a fraction of that amount. Your theme may take 5-10 seconds to load before you’ve added any of your content! Google recommends 2 seconds or less for page load time.
Remove unnecessary plugins
There are lots of features you can add to your website with plugins, but beware they can significantly slow down your site! Many pack in features you do not need, making page size larger and calling a lot of unnecessary scripts.
At the end of the day, mobile devices dominate how users interact with and view content. Content and user experience are important, but only if a user sticks around to view it. Creating a well-optimized site that is easy to navigate and loads quickly should be an important consideration in the design of your website.