A fundamental fact of human nature is that people want to be in control of their environment. Lack of control leads to confusion, distraction, and frustration. This desire to control one’s situational presence translates into how users perceive their UX (user experience) on websites. One of the most significant demands that users expect is speed. When a website loads quickly, users perceive being in control of the site. It is responding to what they need rather than being at the mercy of waiting for it. More power translates to happier users, which means a better UX.
Sometimes designers perceive how a website looks, its aesthetic beauty, and aura as paramount to its loading speed. But all of the images, scripts, and stylesheets take time to load, and that time slows down the user’s perception of how fast the website is. All of these beautification assets are detrimental to a positive UX experience.
Therefore, designers need to consider ways to keep the website’s style close to their (and their client’s) visions while being conscientious of the site’s speed. This requires more than just a narrow focus of some little aspects of the design but rather a more holistic form of improvement. Let’s touch upon five crucial aspects of consideration that will allow for an improvement in the site’s loading speed.
What Are Your Website’s Goals?
The first step is always to know the ultimate goal of your website. Essentially, the design must start with the result in mind, and every portion of the design process should lead to that final product. So before any of the actual design work can begin, it is essential to understand the goals of everyone involved with the website, from the stakeholders to the end-users.
The way to set these goals is to think about what the website is trying to accomplish. This can be done by asking yourself what action you want the users to take on the site ultimately and what elements or tools they need to do this.
Doing competitor research is another essential part of knowing what you want to accomplish and how to go about it. Specifically, note how fast the competitors’ sites load (you can measure it with a speed tool tester of your preference), how they get users to take desired actions on their sites, and what strategies they apply to make users want to return for future visits. If the competitors are well established, they likely know their audience, so observing the elements they use to keep visitors returning and drawing new visitors is vital. Web design companies can help you analyze your competitors’ websites and identify which speed-boosting elements you can adopt for your own site.
When your site has an established goal, you can craft every aspect of it to be relevant to accomplishing that goal. When every element has a particular function and purpose, all the excess that will slow down your site’s loading can be eliminated from the design, resulting in a maximally efficient site giving your audience a way to get their intentions accomplished.
Content And Structure Are Both Vital
How a website is structured, organized, and labeled can go a long way in boosting its efficacy and sustainability. This is often referred to as IA or information architecture. Many websites avoid the “wall of text” approach by adorning their pages with various media. While this certainly adds “life” to a site, images and other media take longer to load than text. This means that when too many pictures, audio, or video on the site, it will inherently experience slower load times. Therefore reducing your site’s media is a natural way of speeding it up.
Images are great in many situations, but sometimes they are not needed. If an image is not going to help meet the goals you set for your site at the onset of your design process, then it’s likely that the image will not be a necessary substitute in a situation where text would suffice. By carefully evaluating the necessity of media and removing it where it is superfluous, designers can significantly optimize their site’s speed.
Those developers who practice effective IA focus on optimizing their content strategy, as well as front-end, interface, and interaction design. By honing in on what is maximally effective through such informed planning, designers can achieve websites that are fast and SEO-friendly. One of the many considerations of the Google engine’s search algorithm considers a website’s IA as a valuable qualifier for bolstering SERP rankings.
Boost Load Speeds With Image Optimization
So if images slow down site loading times, should a designer forfeit their use altogether? After all, larger images take longer to load, affecting the site’s load times. Certainly not. This aspect of design comes down to making images more efficient. For instance, if the image’s width exceeds 300 pixels, it should be saved at 72PDI.
Various image formats work best for a particular image type. A website can be greatly optimized by sticking to the optimal image types for specific uses. Let’s take a look at the four primary image types and what scenarios they work best in:
- GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format)
- By forcing the image’s colors into a 256 color palette, this format reduces the image’s size.
- Because of the limited color palette, this format is best for those images that do not use a lot of color tones (simple, basic renderings).
- They can support transparency as well.
- This format is tough to make to look overly crisp, especially around the edges.
- JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
- A popular design for photographs.
- Applies lossy image compression, which essentially means that the size of the file can be reduced, but in doing so, the quality of the image is sacrificed to a certain degree.
- PNG (Portable Network Graphics)
- This format can be compressed losslessly, meaning that images can be reduced in size without sacrificing much in quality.
- A robust and flexible format that allows smaller images with minimal quality loss (PNG-8).
- Transparency support also exists when images are saved in PNG-24 or PNG-32 formats. This is achieved by making pictures appear crisper toward the center by slightly blurring the edges.
- Because image quality is preserved when compressed to a smaller size, the files resulting from this format tend to be on the larger side.
- SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics
- This format is XML-vector-based.
- When a designer saves an illustration or icon in this format, all vector information is retained.
- Because this is typically a format used for smaller images, the scale is altered without much quality loss.
When designing a site, consider the type of images you are working with, and apply the image format that will be optimal for the maximum quality, color palette, size, and other aspects for that format type. The website will receive images in the most optimal format, resulting in valuable loading time savings.
Don’t Launch Without Testing
A designer can feel confident in their work, but it is never wise to put all faith in the design without testing it out first. After all, some unconsidered aspects of the design might be simply missed. Testing the design’s functionality and efficiency is therefore paramount to achieving the final product.
To test a website, several great tools can be used. Here are a few ideas and tools that can be used for speed testing:
- Web Page Test Tools
- Google PageSpeed Insights
- Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool. This tool will give the designer a good idea of how well a website responds when accessed from a mobile device.
- Check the loading times of a competitor’s site against your own. If yours loads more slowly, work on optimizing it further. The faster loading site is likely to get more views. If that site is yours, you will already be ahead of the game.
Remember that that intent is to take a holistic approach to website design. That means you should evaluate the speed of every page from your site. Anything that can be made better should be. That way, all pages respond to user actions speedily, optimized.
Circling back to the beginning, always keep in mind that it’s all about control when it comes to loading speeds. Many designers create complex graphics and complicated designs for their sites. But while these look impressive, the trade-off is that they take longer to load, sacrificing site speed in the process.
The UX aspect of site access is vital for the user: the better the UX, the more positive the experience, leading to user happiness and satisfaction. By using the above tips, designers can still achieve a maximally effective, beautiful, value-filled website that loads quickly and retains many visitors.