Need For Speed

Speed. It’s what we all crave in today’s busy world of work and home life. Whether we are waiting for a train, hurrying from one meeting to the next, or waiting for the microwave to “ping,” we’re never far from a glance at the clock and an impatient gesture.

A few decades ago, we were more accustomed to waiting for what we wanted. We’d save up for things instead of going out and buying them on credit cards. We appreciated that the best things in life took time to acquire and we were prepared to hold out for them. Bread wouldn’t rise on demand, travel took hours, and we all had an in-built patience born of experience.
The advent of the World Wide Web went a long way to changing our expectations of speed. We became accustomed to typing a request into a search engine and getting an instant result on our screens that answered all of our needs. Pages began to load faster and the search engines were enhanced until we reached the present day of browsing. These days, every possible configuration of data is presented to us even before we have finished typing in what we’re looking for (thank you, Google Instant).

This has had a huge effect upon our culture overall, particularly with regards to the way in which we access information and expect to have it delivered to us. Newspapers are becoming less popular as people realize the benefit of reading their news online, where they can flit from article to article in the space of seconds. Pressured for time, we are all seeking new ways of generating extra hours to keep up with our demanding schedules, and the internet is one of the tools that we use to achieve this goal.

As the average surfer spends just a matter of minutes on each site that they visit, it makes a lot of sense to ensure that our visitors find what they need quickly and easily. Nothing turns off potential customers more than having to work hard to find what they are looking for; this is a certain way of ensuring your visitors never return for a second visit. There are plenty of things you can do to make navigation quicker for your visitors, including providing great signposting to everything they need, a good search facility, and a sensible structure. Labeling clearly the information you provide and using a site index to facilitate easy navigation are also good strategies to support an efficient service provision for your potential customers.

Even if you have the best possible site in terms of design and navigation, it could be that your WordPress blog still takes a long time to load. If this is the case, you can use a number of techniques to make sure your visitors get what they are looking for in double-quick time. Having large images on your site can greatly reduce the loading speed of your pages. To cut down on loading time, reducing the size of your images to the smallest possible size – that still displays well – is a good idea. There’s no point slowly loading an enormous photo, when it only displays at 300px wide. A good plugin to help you do this is WP Smush.it, which automatically optimizes your images to the best size.

Part of the way in which Google determines search rankings comes down to the speed that your webpages load. As the search engines get more fluid in terms of how they retrieve answers to queries, it’s important to make sure that our sites are as efficient as possible. To support a quick download we can use caching. Caching essentially creates a static version of a dynamic WordPress page, which is only refreshed when any changes (such as comments) are made. This means that the page does not have to query your WordPress database to display, and therefore brings up results much more quickly.

Use a caching plugin such as WP Super Cache  or W3 Total Cache (i use this); this will allow visitors to your site to get what they need quickly. W3 Total Cache also uses ”minifying,” that involves combining multiple CSS and JavaScript files into one, and then reducing the size by removing white space and unnecessary line breaks. Both plugins enable the use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to speed up your site, this can be complicated and is probably best left to an expert to setup.

As long as you keep your images small, and regularly undertake housekeeping to keep your WordPress site optimized, it should be relatively easy to ensure that your visitors are provided with a seamless and efficient service. Using the caching process will also ensure that the major search engines can find your site easily, and will factor this into their rankings. With so much technology going into the speed of navigation online, it’s important to make sure that your WordPress blog has everything in place to ensure a fast, efficient, and customer-focused service.