What Is Making Your Website Slow?

Written by Santiago Castro

And What You Can Do About It

Have you ever gone to load a webpage, clicked a link, and just thought...this is taking too long! We all have. Sometimes the fault is your internet connection, but more often the issue is the design of the web page itself.

At Jobsity, webpage speed is one of the most consistent issues we face when building, running, or working to improve web properties. It isn’t something to take lightly: according to Dreamhost, a website hosting platform, an additional 2 seconds of loading time can increase your site’s bounce rate (or percentage of people who leave your site before fully interacting with it) by 103%. And it’s not just seconds of wait that can affect your bottom line: even 100 milliseconds of extra time can cause a 7% decline in conversion rate.

To understand what issues might be slowing down your websites, and what you might be able to do about it (and when it might be necessary to call in a developer to help out!), we sat down with Jobsity’s VP of Technology, Cristian Fierro, for a chat.

Thanks for joining us Cristian. Tell us a bit about what you do as VP of Technology at Jobsity.

Certainly. My role is basically to provide support for the CTO in the IT department. I am the technical project manager and also the scrum master. This means I am in charge of the projects inside the Intellectual Property Area, and I get assignments from other depts to build out our internal operations.

What does that mean exactly, since you’re a nearshore firm?

Normally, IT departments are in charge of day-to-day operations for a whole company, help desk, service help, giving everyone computers, access, credentials, etc -- all the infrastructure. But because we’re a staff augmentation company, we do it a bit differently. We try to implement and innovate processes in the company, to help other departments of the company build processes or infrastructure to work more effectively. So we work in all parts of the company to support all aspects of the work, all our teams, and consequently all of our clients as well.

So in your experience working in this varied role, what is keeping the internet slow?

It’s an interesting question. But let’s be clear: it isn’t only about the Internet. It’s about the new tech and innovations that we develop every year.

Today, we have a more complex environment -- for example, now everyone is using mobile. According to recent reports, 77% of internet use is on mobile. So most of the sites you build will be accessed via mobile-first, so we have to build with mobile in mind. Yet mobile takes longer to load; the average mobile page takes 27.3 seconds, in comparison to 10.3 seconds on desktop. It may not be about the internet being slow, so much as your perception, since you're now using your phone to search the internet. If you see what I mean.

To make the internet “fast,” we have to innovate and be on top of these changes. We have to use good practices to avoid having a slow site.

Tell us about some of these practices.

Well, before the internet boom, people just used HTML and simple Javascript to write websites. But now we have complex frameworks that themselves take longer to render sites and longer to load, so when you’re designing a web page we need to consider: what is the purpose of the website? If it’s going to handle a lot of people visiting the site, we need to implement a good web host, a strong CDN, compressed images, and be aware of the plugins and packages you are using -- each will cause the site to be slower. Be careful with these. Also, you can use a cache system to make the user feel that they’re seeing the website very quickly when it’s the cache system behind it creating this feeling. But it helps...

How do you work with developers at Jobsity to ensure they are designing fast web pages?

In terms of coding, every part of the code needs to be compressed and minified. This is common with React and Angular; if it’s implemented correctly it’ll use the smallest amount of loading time possible. Next, as I mentioned, I always recommend using a Content Delivery Network (CDN). If you publish your assets (images, etc), it will make your content available to the user via several servers, so the closest server will be nearer to where the user is. (If your site is only hosted in one place, and you don’t have a CDN, it’ll take longer to load the site from far away.)

Next, I always recommend a cache system. With big queries to the database, if you do one every time a user visits the site it will slow it down greatly. Also about image compression, a common error is to use bigger images than needed, for example, say you need a logo image for a 200px width space, but you use a 800px width image, that's a real waste of time for the user because it will take longer to load the 800px image than the 200px... It’ll take longer, and especially on mobile. You have to be careful with these things.

This is helpful to keep in mind. Is there a way that non-developers can measure web page speed, to help us decide if we need to hire developers to make our pages faster, or if they are ”fast enough”?

Definitely. Several sites help you measure site speed. One really common one is Google PageSpeeds Insights. The site is really helpful for measuring how long it takes your site to load. It’ll give you metrics that you can study and see what recommendations Google gives. For example, avoid multiple redirects, etc. They will give you many tips to help you make your site less slow. Developers tend to use lots of libraries, but they need to be conscious that every package they use will slow down your site. You have to be careful which plug-ins you use.

I’ve seen developers create a WordPress site with a lot of plugins, but they don’t even use half of them or understand the purpose of using them all. Maybe they load jQuery or a Javascript library -- when you first load this site it’ll load a lot of things, and if you keep it activated when you aren’t using it, you are only making your site slow. So you have to keep a balance between what you need and what you are using. If you have a plugin for a simple feature, maybe you can implement the same feature but with vanilla javascript. If you are using React, Angular or other framework, maybe you have a package that brings a lot of utilities for your code and you are using just one, maybe you can implement that utility or function instead of loading the entire package.

The question is: do you need that package or can you include something simple if it’s a simple feature?

What is your “ideal” for a fast, efficient web that your developers have created?

It depends on the site. I try to make it as fast as possible for the uses required. An example: Jobsity once designed a site for the Olympics. It was going to be visited by people from every part of the whole world. We built in Drupal and we had to build a lot of systems and use a robust server on the site. It pushed us to our limits; we followed all the guidelines above and made sure it didn’t crash, it loaded fast, and it worked well. In the end, it was a great experience.

Sometimes on a marketing site, for specific people, perhaps it’s less important. But no matter what, you will lose clients if they don’t see the site in the first milliseconds!


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Written by Santiago Castro

With over +16 years of experience in the technology and software industry and +12 of those years at Jobsity, Santi has performed a variety of roles including UX/UI web designer, senior front-end developer, technical project manager, and account manager. Wearing all of these hats has provided him with a wide range of expertise and the ability to manage teams, create solutions, and understand industry needs. At present, he runs the Operations Department at Jobsity, creating a high-level strategy for the company's success and leading a team of more than 400 professionals in their work on major projects.