The shopper no longer has to leave the confines of the home to buy a favorite jacket or a gift. And in most cases, shoppers have their favorite ecommerce sites bookmarked and leave them on. Of the 32 hours Americans spend online a week, 7 of these are spent actively shopping their favorite sites.
Optimizing your ecommerce website's performance can be a tricky business, as anyone who has ever visited a website knows. For online shopping, a poorly performing website can be a death knell in a highly competitive business where the customers are as fickle as butterflies. When your customer can have as many as 20 websites on hand with the click of a mouse, your website's speed and performance becomes a top-notch concern.
Several factors affect website speed, but here are some of the most common ones:
Your host server plays a definitive role when it comes to your website's performance. Your web server should be up at least 99.5% of the time, and rarely encounter any downtime. In fact, when you pay for commercial web hosting, the number one draw should be server speed and reliability. Choose a host that backs up its current servers, reimburses you for downtime and is fast.
In order to understand the importance of the server, a basic knowledge of how websites work is needed. Whenever someone accesses a website or types in a URL through a browser, it sends a "request" or data packet to the website's server. The server responds by delivering the page through the browser. The longer it takes for the server to respond or for the request to go through, the longer it takes for the site to load.
A sluggish host server will result in a sluggish website, no matter how much you optimize it for performance. This is simply because a slow server will take forever to respond to request.
File Types and Size
Generally, the bigger the file sizes are on your website, the longer the website takes to load. In the days of dial-up and telephone modems, this was a big deal because it ate up so much time. Many developers responded by optimizing certain files for the web, like the .jpeg extension for image files. This type of file compression resulted in smaller images and faster loading times.
A professional web development team will be able to optimize file types and size to not only increase website performance, but to reduce the number of assets your website hosts.
Another important factor for website performance is browser compatibility. Browsers act like translators for programming codes and interpret data when it is sent by servers. If the browser cannot read the data, the resulting page may not perform up to its best capability. This is why professional web design teams often test websites to optimize them for popular browsers such as Mozilla Firefox or Chrome.
Since you cannot control which browser your visitors choose to use, the best you can do is control how browsers read your site.
Software and Application Compatibility
The ability of the web browser to "read" plug-ins and applications (additional software programs) also affects website speed and performance. Flash, traditionally, is considered a browser-heavy application that can seriously affect loading times. Slower connections will always show a loading screen and some browsers are unable to display Flash unless users download and install them.
This does not mean that applications or additional software is bad. It is just another consideration to think about when you are creating your ecommerce site.
Many websites have a set limit for bandwidth, or the amount of data transferred during a certain period, such a day or month. High traffic will almost always equal slower website performance, especially if you exceed your bandwidth limitations. This is often seen as a cost. To give you an idea, if Google paid bandwidth costs, YouTube traffic alone would cost them billions.
For many ecommerce websites, this is a sign of good business. High traffic often means that you are making conversations and often calls for an adjustment to your current bandwidth allotments to solve the slow performance issues.
These are some of the common factors that affect website performance and should be the first things you look into when assessing your website speed.