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eCommerce Web Performance and Speed: Experts Share Common Mistakes (and How to Improve)

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eCommerce Web Performance and Speed: Experts Share Common Mistakes (and How to Improve)

It pays to have excellent web performance, and in ecommerce, quite literally. Tech experts weigh in on the best optimization methods and mistakes.

· Performance Zone
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Improving website performance and speed is a major concern for large eCommerce sites, particularly now that page load times play a role in how well your website will rank in Google search results. There’s also the issue of user experience. In the modern landscape, when consumers demand instant gratification, a page that takes a few seconds too long to load or one that fails to perform to the user’s expectations can mean a lost sale.

Image via user A National Acrobat on Flickr

But large eCommerce sites share a few problematic things in common: They’re quite image-heavy (necessary to show off various product angles and uses), they may be pulling in content from a variety of external sources, or they may not be appropriately optimizing images, and so forth. What’s more, some large eCommerce sites, despite their size and established position in the market, don’t know how to adequately monitor and improve upon performance. These are just a few of the potential issues that could be slowing down large eCommerce sites and impacting performance.

We reached out to a panel of eCommerce, technical, and marketing experts and asked them to answer the following question:

“What's the most common mistake large ecommerce sites make with web performance and speed?”

Find out what our experts had to say below.

Meet Our Panel of eCommerce, Technical, and Marketing Experts:

   

Jaro Nemcock

@LIFARSLLC

NemcockJaro Nemcok is a Web Security Researcher at LIFARS LLC, an international cyber security and digital forensics firm. With over two decades of experience in programming, web technologies, and computer security, he’s an active international security consultant working with Fortune 500 companies to startups and major financial institutions.

Jaro specializes on auditing Internet and intranet applications and other security software. Designing complex, high performance systems that involve programming code and database systems. Other work includes reverse engineering, static and dynamic malware analysis.

Jaro possesses exceptional analytical skills along with excellent programming skills. He holds an M.S. degree in Computer Science from Slovak Technical University in Bratislava, Slovakia.

“The most common mistakes I see big eCommerce sites making in terms of web performance and speed are…”

First of all, speed does matter. In fact, here are some numbers to back that up: 

A one-second delay in load time means: 

  • 11% fewer page views 
  • 16% decrease in customer satisfaction 
  • 7% loss in conversions (source: Aberdeen Group

With that said, one of the major drawbacks of many of the major web sites is that they are parsing content from various other sources. This dramatically lowers the speed of the site, because your site will fully load as fast as the slowest source of data that you are getting your content from. This may not be a serious delay, but it may be. Some popular sites (such as Forbes.com) pull content from as many as 30 or more sources. Much of this is used for user tracking, ads, etc. Another reason many sites are slow to load is the complexity of the site. This is especially noticeable on systems with lower hardware specs. Complicated sites can simply take too long to render for many users, therefore it’s better to keep your site simple-ish. By keeping your site simple, you are lowering the amount of HTTP requests for the various parts and this will greatly improve the overall speed.  Another point to keep in mind is that you can enable compression to speed up the delivery of the content. A tool called Gzip can help with that. According to Yahoo, by using compression, you can speed up the site up to 70%.  Lastly, browser caching will greatly reduce the load times if the content in question has been downloaded before. Next time it is needed, instead of downloading it again, your browser can reach for the version stored on the user’s computer. 

Oleg Korneitchouk

@olegko

KorneitchoukOleg Korneitchouk is the Director of Marketing at SmartSites, working with hundreds of businesses to design, develop, and promote their websites and eCommerce businesses. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter for online marketing tips and industry news. 

“One of the most common issues I see among large eCommerce sites in terms of web performance and speed is…”

Using non-optimized, overly large images throughout the website. When businesses take high resolution images and don't properly resize and optimize the format for web, images are unnecessarily large in file size and hamper web performance. It's best to resize them to fit their purpose, save them in the proper file type and compress them losslessly using one of themany tools online

Stephen Chinn

@lyonsconsulting

Stephen Chinn is the Director of Applications Hosting Services at LYONSCG. Since joining the company inChinnOctober 2010, Stephen has created a data center, built a hosting service (offering both cloud and dedicated physical servers), created a US-based Operations & Support Center with 24/7 emergency response capacity, and has hired and mentored new staff. Stephen graduated from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale with a BS in Speech Communications.

“When it comes to web performance and speed, eCommerce sites should remember…”

Site speed in eCommerce is widely accepted as one of the most important factors in driving revenue. That’s because speed has a major impact on conversion rates and site traffic. Take for instance that, according to a case study from Radware, 51% of online shoppers in the US claimed if a site is too slow they will not complete a purchase. During peak traffic times, 75% of consumers are willing to visit competitor sites instead of dealing with a slow loading page.  Unfortunately, many eCommerce merchants don’t understand how to measure site speed. They place too much emphasis on page load while not paying enough attention to what makes for a satisfying user experience. The key metric for user experience is time-to-interact, which is the point at which a customer can take action on a page; it's not as important to have the whole page load as it is to have parts of the page ready for your customers to interact with – this makes them happier. Providing a satisfying user experience increases the chance of making a sale and gives customers a reason to return often to shop, as well as tell friends and family about your site.  Three tactics you should employ to optimize site speed are: 

  1. Caching, a way to store data for future requests, so pages can be served faster. 
  2. Compression of images, whereby making them smaller increases the speed by which they’re downloaded. 
  3. Execution, which controls the order in which tasks are performed, placing an emphasis on those which are key to the shopping process and reducing unnecessary wait time.

Adam Smith

@schmack

SmithAdam Smith serves as the Director of Technology for Marketing Mojo, assisting clients with web development issues to ensure smooth delivery of digital marketing efforts.

“My recommendation for large eCommerce sites in terms of web performance and speed is…”

Nearly all the sites I have reviewed for page speed could benefit from image optimization. eCommerce sites rely heavily on great-looking product photos to make the sale. Why take the time to create beautiful imagery if your user abandons the page before it loads?

We've found that we can reduce image size by 25-80% using lossless compression techniques. Lossless means that no quality is lost in the compression process. The best part is that compressing the images really doesn't take that much time. The process can even be automated using web based services and APIs.

Aaron Wagner

@AdhereCreative

WagnerAaron Wagner is the Lead Developer at Adhere Creative, a Houston-based full-service inbound marketing agency. Aaron is a lover of all things web. When not behind his MacBook, he is spending time doting on his wife of 10 years and spoiling his lovely daughter with all things pink.

“The biggest mistake eCommerce sites commit is…”

Failing to put user experience (UX) at the forefront of development. More often than not, users browsing on eCommerce sites are ready to commit to a purchase. Factors like slow site speed and subpar site performance can lead to an overall poor user experience that can doom that potential transaction. Frustrated users are prone to abandoning carts and bouncing out of a site to look for different eCommerce sites that offer similar items of interest with a more seamless user experience. One of the biggest offenders when it comes to eCommerce UX is mobile experience. While most eCommerce sites are duly optimized for desktop, this is not always the case for mobile devices. User experience relies upon not only the performance of the site, but also connectivity. For mobile devices, the challenge is to accommodate devices with much slower and far less reliable connections, like 3G (and in some cases, even LTE can be slow).

This presents a problem because images can take a lot longer to load (and most e-commerce sites have a catalog of images), increasing the chances that a user will bounce. To get around this, load smaller versions of the images for small screen sizes, and load only the images you need right away (and possibly lazy-load the rest). Be sure to take advantage of other speed optimizations such as parallel downloads, CDNs, browser caching and gzip. All of these techniques together should make for a faster, better-performing site on desktop and mobile and create a much more pleasant UX.

Trevor Ewen

@pearoftheweek

EwenTrevor Ewen is a software engineer with Neosavvy in New York.

“A common eCommerce mistake I find aggravating is…”

The lack of unique/saved URLs for custom advanced searches through the company's product line. When I search for products based on criteria, it's often very nice to send that exact search to my spouse or a friend. Quickly and easily copying the URL from the address bar would be the best way to go about this. Many merchants do not implement this feature. 

Kate Hiscox

@usevenzee

HiscoxKate Hiscox, has 10+ years of experience in eCommerce. The first online store she founded in 2004 was acquired two years later for $1.2 million USD. Today, Kate is the CEO of Venzee, a cost efficient ERP alternative designed to optimize eCommerce inventory and supply chain logistics.

“My suggestions for eCommerce sites for improving web performance and speed include…”

  1. Online stores need to be optimized for mobile. The Goldman Sachs Group estimates that by 2018, $626 billion dollars (representing approximately half of all ecommerce), will be done via mobile. Given that, in 2018, eCommerce sites that are not designed with a responsive layout or without a mobile experience in mind will lose out on half of their eCommerce opportunities. Many large commerce sites today still haven't optimized their mobile experience (take carrefouruae.com for example).
  2. Coupon code boxes are ubiquitous with shopping cart checkout experiences for every small to large online retailer. What does that mean to the shopper? If you don't have one, go find one. It turns what may have been a great eCommerce experience into an exclusivity club for discounts. In my experience with online stores, it can increase a buyer’s friction to purchase and reduce shopping cart conversion rates by up to 16%.
  3. eCommerce sites need to realize that their product catalogs have small image files. The larger the image files, the longer the site will take to load. If a product has more details and a buyer needs to be able to see it, a zoom option should be available for that (westelm.com does a great job of this).

Stoney deGeyter

@PolePositionMkg

deGeyterStoney deGeyter is founder and president of Pole Position Marketing, a digital marketing agency established in 1998 focusing on total web presence optimization. He is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!

“The most common mistake eCommerce sites make in terms of web performance and speed is…”

Not ensuring the site is constructed to be search engine friendly. Most eCommmerce solutions such as Magento, X-Cart etc. claim to be search engine friendly, but they often fail miserably. We spend a lot of time working with clients on these platforms (re)programming their websites to conform to basic search engine standards. Common pitfalls of large eCommerce solutions range from duplicate content problems, lack of customization between title tags and product titles, no inherent place for content on category pages, lack of customization between text descriptions and meta description tag, and inability to control navigation links separate from page titles. On top of that, many of these platforms are slow and cumbersome using bloated code.

Finally, too many are not mobile ready, which poses a huge problem with today's algorithms.

John Nesler

@creativecalif

NeslerJohn Nesler works with Creative California, a content development and web design firm based in Sacramento. Nesler wears many hats, but primarily serves as the company’s content researcher and writer and works with clients to develop a better understanding of how their customers think and what their priorities are.

“The biggest stumbling block for eCommerce sites in improving web performance and speed is…”

We've been spoiled by the idea of high-speed Internet as being ubiquitous and universal. This leads to situations where businesses developing their online platforms start thinking that we don't have to prioritize. We can throw EVERYTHING – large images, flashy graphics and transitions, vast amounts of content – at the user at once, and it'll load in seconds!

While this is true on a technical, computer-y Internet-y level, it completely ignores how PEOPLE operate. People pick and choose. They react very strongly when they can quickly find something related to what they want. But they burn out very quickly, and if you make them dig through your presentation to try and find what they want, they'll just look elsewhere.

The point is, don't give people everything you can, because then you'll slide into throwing everything and the kitchen sink at them. Only give people what they need. Something I sometimes tell people is: Don't talk to people in order to impress them; only say as much as you need to in order to inform them. That forces you to get to the meat of the issue.

Austin Paley

@BFMweb

PaleyAustin Paley is the Corporate Marketing Communications Manager for Blue Fountain Media, a digital agency in NYC that uses creative solutions to bring results to companies online.

“The most important considerations for large eCommerce sites in terms of web performance and speed include…”

Imagery is important across all verticals when it comes to website design, but it is particularly important when it comes to eCommerce sites. High-quality, high-resolution visuals can make a world of difference between a sale, or a visitor leaving your site and not converting. To meet this need for excellent photos, many eCommerce brands take a significant amount of time and effort to make sure that the images of their products are of the utmost quality, and that users are able to interact with them on-site in a way that helps facilitate the sales process and increase the conversion rate.

However, problems with web performance and site speed often occur when too much time is spent worrying about image quality and not enough time focusing on how the photo affects usability. Using the appropriate image dimensions and optimizing the file size of your images (in a way that doesn't hurt quality) will help increase load time on each page, which is incredibility important in terms of usability. Brands that fail to take these steps to optimize images run the risk of having a slow page speed that will undoubtedly have an adverse impact on the user-experience and SEO rankings.

Another facet of imagery that is often overlooked is image alt text. While this doesn't directly impact users, you want to make sure you have relevant tags on your images so that images show up in a Google search. By optimizing your image alt text, you can ensure that you're not losing any users that are searching for relevant images you have, and you can increase the amount of users that visit your website and convert.

Relative to responsive design, serving images that are scaled appropriately for mobile, tablet, and desktop is often a trouble point. A lot of times, you'll see a stunningly designed desktop site, and when you switch over to mobile, not all of that functionality that makes the desktop version great will carry over. As mobile continues to grow and permeate the online user base, tailor your images to users on all devices, not just desktop.

Gerard Roche

@N_B_WEB

RocheGerard Roche is the general manager of Nothing But Web. He's an Agile certified Senior Project Manager who specializes in digital projects, including CMS/CRM, eCommerce websites, mobile applications, and multimedia.

“There are a few common mistakes large eCommerce sites make when it comes to web performance and speed…”

1. Choosing an incorrect platform. Various platforms, whether they are custom, open source, or a paid solution, have various strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the right platform for your needs at a cost effective price for development is one of the most important things to do. So you need to forecast for the next two years, minimum, what your needs will be and research your technology of choice and whether it will suit you needs now and in the future.

2. Overloading your site with features will slow it down. Each call to the server is adding to the time for a page to load. So having a fancy script for wishlists, alternate views, zoom features, live chat, videos, share buttons, reviews, related products, predictive search, different pricing, member logins, online chat, etc., all add up and will slow your site down. While some consider all these necessary, it takes some skilled developers and high end equipment to make them work quickly together. Most people continue just to slap in features and don't consider the cost to quality, including speed. Make your use of features balanced with site speed and you will have the added benefit of having a cleaner, less-cluttered site.

3. Large product images are commonly added to sites. But large images are heavy. So while it is a good thing to show your products from various angles, having lots of large, hi-res images will slow down your site. Make sure images are optimized and suitable for the various screen sizes. Having a 2,000-pixel image size is overkill when you could get away with an 800 pixels-wide image for most screens. Showing different, smaller images for mobile is even better. 

Craig Smith

@TrinityInsight

Smith_CraigCraig Smith is the founder & CEO of leading internet optimization agency Trinity Insight. Trinity Insight specializes in assisting brands to drive higher levels of conversion performance with increased qualified traffic. With offices in downtown Philadelphia and outside of Minneapolis MN, Trinity Insight analysts, designers, and developers have worked with leading brands including David’s Bridal, Siemens, Harry & David, Dow Chemical, ShopNBC, and Quicken Loans.

“The most prevalent mistake we see eCommerce businesses make is…”

To not leverage tag management as a lever to lighten their page load and increase performance. With companies we work with, it’s common to see 20+ marketing tags on a website. Integrating into one unified tag makes management simpler and can drastically increase load times. 

Mikkel Bojer

@_mikkelbojer

BojerMikkel Bojer is the Co-founder & CEO at Eventspace, the leading venue booking platform in Denmark backed by FFEYE. Mikkel teaches and advises on growth hacking, startup success, and web development. 

“The most common mistake that large eCommerce sites make when it comes to web performance and speed is…”

Not reducing HTTP requests. It is a simple process of reducing several files into one. For most large eCommerce sites, an abundance of product images are present, and failing to limit HTTP requests for these can have catastrophic consequences for the site's performance. For images, it is usually done by creating sprites to load several pictures in one HTTP request. With CSS files, it can be done with preprocessors such as SASS and LESS. Basically, failing to do this simple procedure is the biggest and most common mistake made by large eCommerce sites. 

Farhad Divecha

@AccuraCast

DivechaFarhad Divecha is the managing director of London-based digital marketing agency AccuraCast. Divecha has 11 years’ experience as a digital expert.

“The most common mistake large eCommerce sites make when it comes to web performance and speed is…”

Integrating too much third-party functionality. When a webpage has to pull numerous scripts from various sources, this significantly increases the time it takes for a page to load. Examples of third-party scripts include customer reviews, currency exchange widgets, social share counts, and weather reports.  There are three ways to avoid third-party scripts slowing down your web performance: 

  1. You can host the scripts on your own site; however, this requires your server to deal with a lot more data.
  2. You can have the scripts load asynchronously, which, although improving the speed at which search engines can crawl your site, will mean users may see an ugly blank space before the script loads.
  3. You can cache the script, which would mean the script’s data may be slightly out of date (for example, a currency exchange widget will show rates from an hour ago). 

Warren Moore

@verbbrands

MooreWarren Moore is the Technical Director for Luxury & Ecommerce specialist Digital Agency,Verb Brands. With over 8 years of experience in the web industry, Warren has crafted complex technical solutions for a range of large clients including Sunseeker Brokerage, Deliciously Ella and Larsson & Jennings. 

“The most pressing issue facing large eCommerce sites in terms of web performance and speed is…”

If you’ve recently visited Amazon’s homepage, you may notice that a staggering 95%+ of the data transferred to your browser is imagery – but this really shouldn’t come as a surprise. No one’s going to buy a product from you if they can’t see it, and now consumers also expect to zoom in and click through multiple product images from seven different angles before they make their purchase choice.

With widespread access to high-speed broadband at home and work, and access to 4G data on your phone when out and about, it’s easy for eCommerce businesses to become complacent when thinking about optimizing imagery for the web.

However, there are some easier things you can do to help create a better customer experience:

1. The obvious one: Make sure you’re using images of the correct size. There’s no point scaling down an overly large image in HTML/CSS to fit the size you need on screen, because the consumer still needs to download the contents of the large image first.

2. Image compression: Employ lossy compression techniques wherever possible across every imag you serve. While Yahoo! recently smushed their online optimization offering Smush.it, image compression is nothing new.

A technique called ‘quantization’ has been employed for a number of years now to drastically reduce the size of PNG files. This works by reducing the number of available colors in the image down from 16.8 million (PNG-24) to only 256 (PNG-8), but still preserves the ability to render partial transparency perfectly.

By default, when saving for web through Photoshop, PNG-24 is always used, bloating files enormously, and even worse, only the most recent version of Photoshop (CC 2015) has the ability to save indexed PNG files with alpha transparency.

With the rise of easy-to-use online interfaces like tinypng.com /tinyjpg.com, offering drag-and-drop image optimization, alongside Photoshop plugins to do the legwork for you, there’s no reason not to have perfectly optimized images throughout your eCommerce experience.

3. GZIP compression: For almost 14 years, every version of every major browser has supported GZIP compression, which allows a web server to send a zipped version of a website and its associated resources, which the browser unzips before rendering its content. While natively compressed file formats (like images) may only see a slight decrease in file size, HTML and other text files can easily see 3-10x reductions in file size.

4. Content delivery networks (CDNs): It doesn’t matter how few images you might think you have – utilize a CDN! CDNs work by distributing your imagery and other web assets to several different geographical destinations (called nodes) and serving content directly to users from their nearest node. Not only do you get the benefits of powerful server clusters doing the work of serving up the bulk of your website's data, but by downloading content from a node close to them, consumers receive a consistent experience regardless of where in the world they shop from.

5. srcset (Source Set): One of the problems facing today’s web developers is regarding retina devices, and serving up content that looks pixel-perfect on these devices. There are a myriad of solutions currently available, from using JavaScript to switch out images (causing retina devices to download multiple copies of an image), using retina-only images across all devices (resulting in the occasional episode of imperfect downsampling for non-retina devices), to using CSS media queries to change background images.

None of these methods perfectly implement what’s required: the ability for the browser to choose what size image it should download – this is where srcset comes in. While support is garnering a slower uptake, the ability to tell the browser where to find copies of images at different sizes for an array of different devices has support in recent versions of Chrome and Firefox, as well as throughout Android devices.

With even a second's delay in response time leading to an eye-watering 7% loss in conversion, eCommerce sites can no longer afford to leave their images unoptimized. Although there is no clear-cut solution to optimization – the above techniques could be enough to make an impact in your customer’s decision to purchase.

Travis Marziani

@BDancewear

MarzianiTravis Marziani runs his own successful eCommerce website, bdancewear.com, and hosts a podcast, Build My Online Store, to help others do the same. 

“There are four primary mistakes eCommerce sites make, particularly with mobile, including…”

1. A page should never be hard to navigate. It should have a clean look with clear a purpose (to sell your product).

2. The buy button should always be above the fold, too many websites make this mistake. Make it easy to for your consumer to purchase!

3. Make the checkout purchase easy. Big fonts, easy to use forms, etc. provide the biggest bang for your buck by making the end of the funnel easier to use. Do this and you’ll significantly increase your conversion rate.

4. Lastly, and most importantly, the biggest mistake eCommerce owners make is not having a mobile website. Especially with the new update Google rolled out, if you don’t have a mobile friendly website, your website won’t be soon.

Allen Greer

@fuzemiami

GreerAllen Greer is the Head of Digital Strategy at FUZE, a full-service Digital Agency providing Web Design, Development, and Marketing services to clients big and small. 

“The most common mistakes eCommerce sites make related to website performance and speed include…”

1. Not implementing a reliable CDN: A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is mandatory for ecommerce websites with tens of thousands of SKUs. It just doesn't make sense to store 40 or 50 gigabytes of images on the same server the site is hosted on. This is a sure fire way to run into site speed and performance issues.

2. Skimping on web hosting: Large websites require finely tuned servers with enough firepower to keep things running smoothly even when activity and load are high. Many clients don't want to spend money on dedicated cloud servers, for example, but frequent site crashes can cost far more than a solid server setup, so it's always better to overcompensate and scale back in the future.

3. Using an outdated CMS version: Running a business on an outdated CMS platform can spell trouble. Magento, for example, recently revamped its indexing and page caching capabilities, so clients running older versions of Magento could eliminate many performance issues by upgrading.

Gabriel Kuperman

@hugeimpactcom

KupermanGabriel is the CEO and founder of Huge Impact, a digital marketing agency that specializes in custom website development and search engine marketing.

“The most common reason an eCommerce website is slow is…”

Due to many large, slow-loading images. It's important to resize the images and save them for web use before uploading them to your server. Secondly, you should serve your website's images from a reliable CDN (content delivery network), such as the Amazon CloudFront CDN, to speed up the site even further for users all over the world. 

Lani Gregory

@iiworksgroup

GregoryLani Gregory is a digital analyst for hotelmarketingWorks.

“The most common mistake eCommerce sites make in terms of web performance and speed is…”

Not utilizing the free data from Google Analytics. Take advantage of setting up goals, taking a look at micro conversions, and also seeing where customers are getting stuck in the checkout funnel. From there, you can optimize your site better.  Regarding speed, again, make sure to take advantage of the free tools that Google offers.  

Other eCommerce sites fail to optimize their site for mobile devices. More people are searching online from mobile devices than desktop. Try responsive design.  As far as web design – keep it simple and easy to navigate. Have clear call-to-action buttons so you are not confusing users. 

Joel Trost

@avalara

TrostJoel Trost is a Senior Software Engineer at Avalara in Seattle. Prior to Avalara, Joel held software engineering positions at Zillow and Western Digital.

“The most common mistakes I see eCommerce sites making in terms of web performance and speed are…”

Gzipping: A common mistake large eCommerce websites make is not thinking about efficient content delivery. More specifically, a failure to configure servers to deliver a website gzipped. Gzipping a website will compress the website content, typically to one-third the original size. This can have tremendous impact on the speed at which the website will load for users by reducing the amount of information they need to receive. Assuming a constant Internet speed for two different users, the gzipped website may be served 66% faster than the website that is not gzipped.  Gzipping a website is relatively easy as it's supported by all major web servers and browsers.

Edge Caching: A much more widespread performance mistake is not setting an eCommerce website up to be served over an edge cache. With edge caching, eCommerce sites can store information in caching servers located closer to end users. This helps reduce the time to delivery. When website content is requested, an edge caching service will identify where the user is located and select the caching server closest to the user location. 

Mark Rushworth

@bldigital

RushworthMark Rushworth is Head of Digital Marketing at Blue Logic Digital and an experienced website designer, developer, and marketing professional with over 16 years’ experience in deploying and marketing ecommerce solutions for brands including Brooks Brothers, AllSaints, Morphsuits, Aspecto, and TomTom. 

“The most common performance issue with most eCommerce deployment is…”

Hosting. Saving a few dollars a month might seem like a wise way to save money, but as a website grows and new resources are built in, a server will become more and more antiquated. Other hosting issues such as improperly configured DNS, load balancing, caching, and cheap SSL certificates also contribute to lag and poor customer experience. Our advice is to go for the best hosting available with an upgrade plan in place, burstable bandwidth, burstable CPU capacity, and scalable storage, not forgetting a great support contract, and most importantly, automated mirroring and backup should hardware fail or an update cause issues.  

Mauricio Prinzlau

@cloudwards

PrinzlauMauricio Prinzlau is head of SEO for Cloudwards.net, a cloud storage search engine. He owns an agency and worked for large eCommerce sites in the technical SEO department. 

“Most of the issues faced by eCommerce sites in terms of web performance and speed involve…”

Large eCommerce sites have their own share of problems when it comes to speed because, on the one hand, the site architecture has to support both front end speed and good crawlability to ensure good positioning in the search engine result pages (SERPS). When it comes to front end rendering, the time to first byte is a decisive factor. You can improve that metric with a good CDN or fast server. Also, it helps if media files, especially images, are uploaded with the correct size(s) so that the browser doesn't have to render the images smaller. In terms of crawlability, one of the major mistakes we see is that eCommerce sites are not setup properly, for example, lots of categories with duplicate content or very similar content. Make sure to use the canonical tag or no-index archive pages of categories. It's all about using the crawling budget in a smart way. Good site architecture helps and is essential for eCommerce success.  

Ishmeet Singh

@HighOnLeather

SinghIshmeet Singh is the Founder of Highonleather.com. Singh has 6 years of experience in Digital Marketing and Ecommerce Industry.

“There are numerous mistakes that can decrease the speed of an eCommerce site, including...”

People typically believe that if they are using SAAS software like Shopify, Magento etc., their website is already running at the best speed and there is no chance for improvement, or they think that if their theme is responsive, then it will run efficiently on mobile devices, which is a big mistake for all eCommerce marketers. There are a number of ways to increase your store speed, such as image optimization. Image optimization doesn't mean simply adding the alt tags or naming your images. It also means that you need to decrease the size of banners, product pictures, etc. without compromising the quality.  The second common mistake is adding extra, fancy features, such as the ability to zoom in by simply moving the cursor on the product. These Java scripts will lower the speed and are impossible to run on mobile devices. Yes, we know Amazon does that, but then again, it’s Amazon. In fact, the fewer the Java scripts, the better it is.  Google's new update clearly says that your website should be mobile friendly in order to get the best ranking. To make your website mobile friendly, you need to have high speed, responsive themes.  

Yauhen Khutarniuk

@LinkAssistant

KhutarniukYauhen Khutarniuk manages SEO and traffic acquisition at Link-Assistant.com, the developer of SEO PowerSuite toolkit. With over 9 years of experience in Internet marketing, Yauhen is passionate about natural language processing, web analytics, and testing innovative optimization strategies. 

“Large eCommerce site commonly make several mistakes with web performance and speed, including…” 1. Oversized images.  Many large eCommerce sites don't bother to compress their images. However, the bigger the images are, the longer it takes for a site to load. It would make things easier if there was some universal recommended image size, but there is none. The rule of thumb is to keep the images as small as possible, as long as it doesn't influence their quality. 

2. Scaling images the wrong way.  It is often the case that eCommerce site owners reduce the dimensions of the images with the help of HTML width and height attributes, rather than actually reducing their size. It is always a better practice to reduce the images manually using Photoshop or to use image optimization tools to make the necessary changes.

3. Not using browser caching.  Leveraging browser caching is crucial in improving site speed for eCommerce websites, yet it's an aspect that’s often ignored. Webmasters should specify an explicit caching policy. A great first-hand source for these recommendations is PageSpeed Insights form Google Developers.

4. A slow host.  Using a mediocre web host is something an eCommerce site can't afford. Multiple videos and images, high traffic load, storing large volumes of data – all of these call for a reliable and flexible hosting provider. GoDaddy is an option often recommended for eCommerce sites. 

5. Slow CMS (old school solutions).  I've seen cases when eCommerce sites even in 2015 would be run on outdated content management systems like Zencart or similar systems. This should be avoided, because the old-school solutions are unlikely to meet the present-day requirements for site speed. WordPress, a genuine blogging platform, is not the best solution for eCommerce either, though some site owners would resort to it. 

Glenn Cipolla

@GlennCipolla

CipollaGlenn Cipolla is a Vice President at INTAP and a DBA with 25 years of experience. Cipolla’s current company, INTAP, specializes in targeted digital advertising/brand gaming and the analytics collected from advertising.

“When it comes to web performance and speed, most large eCommerce sites…”

Are prepared for the large user base that goes along with eCommerce, but most are not prepared to manage the volume of data that user base generates and the concurrency issues that data volume creates within their backend database. Once database size hits critical mass, performance will fall. What then? Most eCommerce sites are not prepared with an answer for that question. Do you build a larger system or pare data off to another system? What if all of the data is crucial for day-to-day eCommerce operations and cannot be pared down? These questions must be asked and answered during the design phase because, if you are successful, you will have a potentially massive data volume that you must manage going forward while maintaining peak performance for your end users. There are a few ways to be prepared for this issue:

1. Take data volume into account and make it a theme during the design process.

2. Design the database so that only a minimum amount of data elements are needed for day-to-day operations and the rest can be pare off to a larger, slower, legacy system.

3. Test, test, test, with more users than expected and more data than you plan on keeping.

4. Based on your testing, adjust your design and system as needed and find your point of critical mass. Where do the wheels come off?

5. Always have a backup plan in your back pocket if data volumes or performance start causing problems. A larger system, design change, ETL to pare off data, or a move to a NoSQL system are all possible solutions.

Patrick Delehanty

@marceldigital

DelehantyPatrick Delehanty is a Digital Marketing Specialist with Marcel Digital in Chicago. His efforts have been featured in USA Today, Paste Magazine, and Pitchfork. Patrick is also a leading member of Moz, a community of digital and inbound marketers. 

“The most common mistake we see with eCommerce sites when it comes to site speed is…”

Page bloat. This comes in a number of forms, from too much code on the page to slow rendering pages and images, to loading resources and not having a responsive site implementation. Companies and their web developers need to understand the user experience drawbacks here – a one-second delay can result in as much as a 7% reduction in conversions. Having a clean, well structured, and easy to use website is imperative to any eCommerce company's survival. Google offers a number of resources that can help website run effectively and allow webmasters to check their performance over time:

The more in-tune with the above resources a webmaster is, the more efficiently their site will run and the happier their customer base will be. 

Courtney Cox

@atomicdc

CoxCourtney Cox is the Director of Digital Strategy at Atomic Design & Consulting. Cox has worked with many eCommerce clients, including Hilton Worldwide and Berkey Water. 

“The most common mistake I've seen among large eCommerce sites is…”

Render-blocking Javascript and CSS in above-the-fold content. When content above-the-fold has to wait on external files to load before rendering, it dramatically reduces the speed at which users receive that content. 

When you run the Google PageSpeed Insights test against the most popular eCommerce sites such as EtsyHome Depot, even Amazon, you find warnings about render-blocking resources in every one.  The reason it's so widespread is because it's very difficult to implement, especially in the world of complex content management systems and hosted eCommerce platforms like WordPress and BigCommerce. Often times, these render-blocking resources cannot be removed from above-the-fold content or the process of removing them would be more costly than it's worth. 

Amad Ebrahimi

@merchantmav

EbrahimiAmad Ebrahimi is the Founder of Merchant Maverick, a comparison site that reviews and rates credit card processors, POS software companies, shopping carts, and mobile payments services.

“One of the biggest mistakes large eCommerce sites make is…”

Not using a CDN. It's especially important if you have a very large database of products. You need to serve up images quickly, and a CDN can help. Used in conjunction with caching, CDN implementation will drastically reduce server load times. 

Brandon Howard

@allmywebneeds

HowardBrandon Howard is a web designer, marketer, problem solver, and most importantly, an entrepreneur. He owns several online businesses providing a wide range of products and services in different industries, both nationally and internationally. Brandon is always looking for new things to benefit the open source community and strives to find unique ways to help small businesses. 

“The two most common mistakes large eCommerce sites make when it comes to web performance and speed is…”

Not caching their product pages and not deferring extra resources to load below the fold. In most cases, larger eCommerce sites have so much content for the site to go through before the correct product is found in the database that it takes longer for the page to load. We're talking about a short period of time, but a slow Internet connection on the customer’s end can mean a lost sale. If you cache your product pages, then there's no need to reference the database of products when an individual product page is loaded. That's definitely the number one thing you should do. The next priority should be deferring extra resources, so the only images/files that load on the page are the ones the user will see when the page first loads. Then load everything that's below the fold (further down the page after they scroll) later.  

Rod Holmes

@chicagostyleseo

HolmesIn 2009, Rod and his partner Ben Robinson founded Chicago Style SEO, a full-service digital marketing agency specializing in on-site SEO, in addition to website development, organic and local SEO, and PPC. Rod enjoys using his geeky, technical side while helping businesses grow by marketing their websites online. 

“The most common mistake many eComm sites make is…”

Not doing structured data markup, which can improve click-through rates and increase traffic.

Juan Velasquez

@DoitWiser

VelasquezJuan Velasquez is a marketing specialist at Imagetoner.com.

“The number one thing impacting web performance for eCommerce sites is…”

Third-party widgets. Third-party widgets are the bane of every performance-conscious site operator’s life. Don’t use them if you can help it. A couple of social media plugins and an analytics integration are often necessary, but avoid third-party widgets like the plague if you can. Try to use widgets that provide asynchronous implementations, so their inevitably terrible performance impacts their widget without dragging down your entire UX with it. Measure performance (and stop using the slow ones); watch them carefully and either insist on an SLA, switch widget providers, or find a way to do without the widget. (This point about measurement applies to all aspects of performance. The things you measure have a funny tendency to improve, and you can’t optimize what you don’t measure.)  

Ben Chafetz

ChaftezBen Chafetz is the Director of Client Services for 121eCommerce.com. 121eCommerce, LLC was founded by eCommerce professionals with a background in Omni Channel Marketing, Purchasing, Inventory Management, and other areas of operation. Today, as one of the fastest growing eCommerce development companies, their team of expert developers and eCommerce professionals focuses heavily on Magento development solutions and custom PHP application development. 

“The most important consideration for eCommerce sites in improving web performance and speed is…”

Understanding what factors impact your site’s speed and performance is crucial to any optimization effort. If any of these components are not optimal, they can definitely impede performance:

Media – Every image on your site is a request from the server to load. This includes tracking beacons (1x1 pixels used for tracking campaigns). The more requests, the longer it takes to load. Some basic things to consider are using sprites and using a CDN. The use of sprites will lower the number of requests to the server, and the use of a CDN will distribute the requests for media to other media servers in closer proximity to your customers. This will reduce the number of requests and the time it takes for the images to load.

Database Load – If you have a very large catalog or are processing a large volume of orders, consider getting a separate server to handle those tasks. Having a distributed server architecture will ensure that you have proper resources allocated to your customers when they perform various tasks like browsing your product catalog, searching your product catalog, consuming media, and placing orders. It will also allow you to run various maintenance tasks, web components (e.g. CSS scripts and other libraries), and scheduled jobs without affecting site performance. Getting another server may cost you another $500+ a month, but how much more are you losing every time a customer leaves your site? Or worse, when your site crashes?

Full Page Caching and Gzip – Using FPC greatly reduces the load on the server. The basic concept of FPC is that most of your site uses the same elements page after page; the header, footer, navigation, and other elements really don't vary that much. Full Page Caching caches a copy of those elements on your customer’s computer so that every time they make a request, they only get the delta of information that is not already cached. Gzip compresses information that is sent from the server to the client which means faster load times.

Hosting – I can't stress this enough: a good hosting company means less money spent on Rolaids. Look for 24/7 support and a guaranteed response time. Not an automated response, but a real person. You should be able to call your hosting company whenever you need to and reach a person immediately. All the hosting companies we work with go the extra mile for their customers and can and will do basic System Admin work for you. We work closely with ZeroLag, iNetU, and Peer 1. We also work with LiquidWeb. We have had great experiences with all of them. 

Topics:
performance ,web performance ,ecommerce

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