The ultimate guide to improving website performance

How do you keep your website performing optimally in an ever-changing digital landscape? With customer service expectations higher than ever, site visitors are demanding flawless web performance and super quick download speeds. Research has shown that milliseconds can make a real difference in customer behaviour and grabbing those all-important sales conversions. So here’s everything you need to know about improving your website performance…

What is Conversion Rate Optimisation?

CRO, as defined by HubSpot, is “the process of enabling people to take action when they visit a website. By designing and modifying certain elements of a webpage, a business can increase the chances that site visitors will “convert” into a lead or customer before they leave.”

Most businesses websites are designed to convert visitors into customers and these conversions can occur across the whole website whether that’s the homepage, blog, landing pages or product and service pages. All of these web pages can be fine-tuned and optimised to increase the number of conversions you can get from them, and this is exactly what Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) entails.

Take your homepage as an example. It’s where you visitors will get their first impression of your business and where much of your traffic will first land. A good place to start is by making sure your homepage signposts your visitors towards areas of your site related to what they are most likely to want from your business as well as what you want from them. You can then use CRO to make incremental gains by tweaking elements of your design and layout to find the most conversion-friendly set-up.

Introducing tools like chatbots that can help answer questions or qualify leads for your sales team can help too and CRO can help refine these as well as ensure they’re placed in areas that generate the most benefit for visitors and your business.

Setting goals & A/B testing to increase website conversion rates

The good news is there are lots of ways to increase your website conversion rates. But firstly, you need to choose a goal. If you don’t have a goal, there’s no way of knowing you’re improving the site or assessing whether it’s performing against your business targets. Goals should link you your overarching business objectives to enable you to demonstrate how the website is contributing to the health of your business. Example goals could be sign-ups, purchases, sales enquiries, clicking through to a landing page, or downloading a content offer.

Once you clarified your goals, it’s time to do some A/B testing. A/B testing, or split testing, is a technique used to increase your website’s conversion rate - often alongside a CRO project. For example, if you had two different styles of data capture forms, you could run an A/B split test to see which one performs better. The only way you can find out what works best across your site is to continually test.

Another top tip for increasing your website’s conversion is to remove any navigation links that take customers away from your site when they’re on a conversion point. For example, when a visitor lands on a checkout page, data capture page, or portal, there should be no way of navigating away from the page. A landing page is a standalone page that’s purpose is to get a visitor to take action, so remove any navigation links and see how this affects your conversion rates.

Growth Driven Design

Growth Driven Design (GDD) is the development or redesign of a website to ensure every element of your site is functioning to its full potential. It’s a data-driven approach which fuses together site redesign and marketing to minimise the pitfalls of traditional web design and produce a high-performing website.

Traditional web design would usually consist of, 2-4 months deciding what the company wants on its site, 4 months programming, then letting the site do its thing. This usually comprises of a large up-front cost and a site than often launches very late and over-budget.

The Growth Driven Design process involved a continual cycle of ‘sprints’. Sprints are time periods whereby a company’s marketing and web development agency work on making improvements to the site. Changes are made based on how prospects are using, or not using, the site. GDD doesn’t mean you have to change the entire aesthetic of your site, it just means making a few modifications to ensure your prospects are having a positive experience while interacting with your brand.

Signs you probably need a new website

Sometimes just looking to increase conversions isn’t enough - you may need a whole new website. If you’re thinking that might be the case - you may just be right, here are a few warning signs that it’s time for a new approach:

Your website isn’t mobile responsive

Over 20% of Google searches are performed on a mobile device and when it comes to local searches, more than half are performed on mobile devices. Mobile web usage overtook desktop for the first time as far back as 2016 and only continues to grow/ The world has gone mobile so if your website isn’t yet optimised then this should be reason enough for a rebuild.

Your visitors aren’t sticking around for long or converting

Are your web analytics showing a high bounce rate? Or low average pages per visit? That might be because your prospects aren’t having a positive experience on your site, or they’re not finding it useful. Re-evaluate your target audience and your website goals, then redesign accordingly.

Your search engine rankings are low

These days, a website ranks highly for having lots of original, high-quality content. If your website isn’t built with this current SEO trend in mind then it’s definitely time for an update.

Your website is slow

According to KISSmetrics, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less and 40% of visitors will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. How does your site bode under these statistics? Having a fast loading website will ensure visitors stick around and have a great experience.

How to improve your site speed

As internet users we expect the information we’re looking for to load in a matter of seconds. Regardless of what device we’re using, we need websites to load fast and flawlessly, and if they don’t, we won’t wait.

Google includes page speed in its ranking algorithm, so websites that don’t load quickly will appear in lower search results. Longer load times have also been shown to negatively affect conversions. Here are a couple of ways you can increase your page speed…

Optimise images

High-quality images can capture attention and help visitors visualise the on-site experience, but they can slow the load time down. Consider scaling them appropriately so that they’re still high-res but considerably reduce the time it takes to load the page.

Simplify website design

Simplifying your website design can increase your site speed. This is because it reduces the number of HTTP requests your site needs to make to load. A HTTP request is made for all the different elements of your website including image files, JavaScript and CSS. A simple site design can help your visitors find the information they’re looking for in a short space of time and have a more pleasant browsing experience.

You can evaluate your page speed and get custom recommendations with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

Future proofing your website

Technology is a wonderful thing, and it’s ever-evolving and expanding. But that also means your business needs to somehow try and stay ahead of trends – particularly when it comes to website design. These days, a website usually has a shelf life of two years before it starts looking old and outdated. Luckily, there are a few ways you can future-proof your website so you don’t have to fork out for an entire redesign every few years…

Plan for the future

Knowing where you’re heading with your website and your business goals will help you procure a platform that works for now and in the future. A three year plan for the future of your online presence (and what you want to achieve with it) will help bring clarity to the areas you should focus on now and future plans might influence technology decisions you make shorter term too.

Keep it simple

While parallaxes and animations can look impressive, they can end up looking dated very quickly, especially as trends change. It’s all well and good for short campaigns but if you’re looking for longevity, keep it simple.

Stay fresh

Make sure you invest time in regular updates and upgrades of your website system. This will make it easier to perform minor tweaks, ensure security is kept on top of as well as keeping your website looking fresh and current.

Looking for some more top tips? Watch our video.

Is your website secure?

Have you considered lately just how vulnerable your website may be? Security isn’t the first thing many of us think about when considering website performance but it’s one of the most critical elements of any website project.

A recent survey has revealed around 4.5 million cybercrimes were committed in England and Wales for the year ending March 2018. The Cyber Security Breaches Survey also estimated that two in five businesses were subject to cybercrime within the past twelve months in 2018. Crimes included file hijacking, identity theft, installing malware and viruses and retail and consumer fraud.

Is your CMS up to date?

If you aren’t using the latest version of your CMS then you’re not only failing to benefit from the latest functionality and features, but you’re potentially leaving the door wide open to hackers and malware programmes exploiting known security issues. Regularly updating your CMS is one of the simplest ways to maintain your site’s security – so get it done!

Check your passwords. Everyone knows they should use complex passwords, but how many of us actually do? It’s so important to use strong passwords to access your server and website admin area, and to enforce good password practices on your users.

Read our blog for more tips on how to keep your website secure.

Anthony Morris
Anthony Morris

Head of Project Delivery