Will you lose customers while your mobile pages slowly load, or will you gain loyal followers as you optimize mobile site speed? The choice is yours, but Google plans to add mobile website speed to SERP ranking, so wise businesses are moving to optimize mobile site speed now. The majority of consumers are mobile and they expect mobile sites to be quickly accessible, some experts say within one second. Follow these steps to appease the need for speed (and overall responsive web design).
Minimize to optimize mobile site speed
1. Minimize image size
Images take longer to load than text, so make sure your image size matches the available space. Reduce the image resolution as much as you can without sacrificing quality. Crop images for a perfect fit, and compress them with a jpeg type file.
2. Minify resources
4. Slash and delay above the fold content
As mentioned above, initial content will load faster when there is less data involved. Consider saving images and other time grabbers for below the fold positions. Structure your website to load main content before widgets and sidebars to optimize mobile site speed.
5. Compress files
Smaller files mean faster network transfers, which will speed up loading times. Gzip can be enabled in the web server configuration, and accounts for up to 90% file size reduction. This leads to a quicker first render, and your viewers will use less data too.
6. Trim or omit video
Videos take up the most room on a website, and are the biggest culprits when pages load slowly. If video is not integral to your site, eliminate it completely. Other options include loading it in the background, or only running it on your desktop site. Some mobile sites use a call to action button that either links to a video hosting site like YouTube, or routes the video file to the user’s email address.
7. Remove redirects
Redirects require extra processing and delay page loading. An example is when a mobile viewer is sent to your desktop landing page and then redirected to your mobile landing page. Hosting your mobile and desktop sites in the same location is one way to address this. Many websites prefer using a responsive design that responds and changes to any size device screen to optimize mobile site speed.
Modification for optimization
8. Choose plugins wisely
Plugins can cause your mobile site to lag or crash, as well as induce security concerns. Not all plugins are well conceived, so select carefully. Take time to research and make sure the plugins you pick are up-to-date, have a lot of positive customer reviews, and have a high number of downloads (thousands are better than hundreds). Run tests to determine if a plugin affects your site speed, and weigh the pros and cons.
9. Enhance browser caching
Mobile caches cannot hold large amounts of content, and this slows down mobile site loading speed. All resources for your site should have a caching policy in place. This allows reusing of previous responses whenever possible, cutting down on retrieval time to optimize mobile site speed.
10. Utilize a CDN
A content delivery network (CDN) disperses the weight of your website across a network of servers around the world. Users receive your content from the server that is located closest to them. The shorter the distance between user and server, the faster your content loads.
Put your mobile site to the test
In addition to these steps, Google’s TestMySite online tool checks the mobile-friendliness, mobile speed and desktop speed of any website. The results include a number grade up to 100 for each of the three categories, and a list of fixes to optimize mobile site speed in that specific area. You can also request to receive the report via email.
Mobitest is another online tool for finding the speed of your site, and tests strictly for mobile. You can choose between several devices to test on: iPhone 5s, Galaxy S5 or iPad Air. Load time, page size, waterfall chart and screenshot are displayed on the results page.
GTMetrix tests the speed of your site on either Firefox (desktop) or a Galaxy Nexus (mobile). After registering, you can generate a performance report with percentages and letter grades for pagespeed score and YSlow score, as well as results for page load time and number of requests. GTMetrix also breaks down your performance scores into subcategories with suggestions for correcting low scores.
The average person uses a mobile device more than 150 times a day, and as mobile’s popularity continues to grow, so does the need to optimize mobile site speed. Reducing or eliminating some features, changing others, and periodically testing and updating your mobile site will keep it optimized. More than a “mobile friendly” site, you’ll have a mobile site built for speed.