A 4-Step IT Strategy to Optimize Complex Websites
Why We Obsess with Site Speed
1.) Search Engine Optimization – Speed metrics, such as page load time, are a real factor in Google’s search algorithm. If a website is slow, it will be penalized in SEO rankings and traffic will drop.
2.) User Experience – Today’s end-users expect content to be delivered at lighting speeds, perfectly optimized to fit their unique context. That’s not easy – but it makes the difference between winners and losers. Consider: 47% of consumers expect a page to load in 2 seconds or faster. Happy end-users make businesses more profitable. Don’t believe it? Business intelligence analysts at Aberdeen Group estimate $360 billion in unrealized revenue due to poor digital performance. So, what’s your strategy?
4 Steps to Optimize Complex Websites
We’ve established that application speed matters, but there is no magic bullet to load an application quickly. Instead, IT departments must rely on well thought out strategy and meticulous execution to ensure applications are delivered to end-users as intended.
Step #1: Figure Out Who’s Driving the Boat?
Who owns your company’s web applications? The answer is not always a simple one. A company website is likely managed by multiple actors within the organization. In order to develop a winning strategy for website performance, there needs to a clear indication of who’s in charge of what.
The dizzying Gartner chart below visualizes proliferation of the digital marketing ecosystem. This puts the CMO in charge of an increasing number of online assets. It also creates friction between marketing and IT along several intersection points.
In short, today’s CMO calls for faster, more complex applications. This causes discomfort for IT because, more often than not, they are on the hook to make the complicated system marketing requires.
In order to succeed, both c-suite stakeholders must work well together. McKinsey outlines a successful partnership as: “Shared accountability for business-performance improvement based on specific key performance indicators such as revenue generation, usage and retention.”
In more simple terms – set goals and meet them.
Step #2: Set Website Goals
Now that IT & Marketing on the same page, it’s time to set goals. Ask the question: how does application performance and speed impact bottom line business?
- What is the end goal? Different business types have different goals. For example, online retailers strive to increase sales and improve revenue streams, while software company will focus on traffic and trial conversions.
- What are you trying to impact? Boil down goals and mold strategy around specific metrics to impact. For example, to reach an eCommerce revenue goal, focus on improvement in conversion metrics and increase average session time, as those are critical metrics to impact.
- What is your timeline? The process of improving website speed takes time. Be sure to account for time-sensitive events like holiday traffic surges.
- Unsure which metrics to focus on? These are key website performance metrics to track.
- What is your budget/appetite for 3rd party involvement? Determine which actors will be involved in the optimization process. Does the current IT team have sufficient bandwidth? Is hiring outside help in the budget?
Step #3: Run Through “The Checklist”
1.) Test & Test Again
Test applications and benchmark current performance metrics. Benchmarking tools help identify areas in need of improvement, as well as, inform on in-place strategies that are work well.
There exist numerous application performance tools to report and monitor application performance. Popular tools to measure performance metrics utilize include: Pingdom, GTmetrix or Google PageSpeed (We suggest Website Test).
- Use multiple testing tools, generate multiple reports. Gather as much data as possible.
- Test all web properties more than once
- Test for every variable: browser, geographic location, device type, etc.
2.) Reduce Number of Page Components
Websites are growing in complexity and it’s slowing them down. Reducing and compressing page components lightens applications and enables content delivery at faster speeds to the end-user.
3.) Simplify Design
4.) Optimize Image/Video Size & Format
Compress images and video before uploading. Large images take much longer to load and slow page speed. Moreover, with responsive design applications, a large uncompressed image may work great on desktop, but to display on a phone it must be downloaded and resized on a mobile browser and network. This process is a major hang-up, and can easily be avoided with a compressed image.
Step #4: Repeat, Iterate & Improve
Most IT departments handle basic tasks like image compression with ease. So, why is web application performance trending in the wrong direction? It is because end-user experience is continually ignored. Applications must be treated like a super car, even minor alterations can have negative impact on overall performance. Develop a holistic strategy, stick to it and continuously improve.
Lastly, avoid these common pitfalls:
- Starting without strategy – wading into metering and reacting to rules of thumb. (Thus, the importance of Steps 1-3)
- Forgetting to add or create a mobile solution – this requires you to start from mobile, not form the current state of your online applications.
- Abandoning strategy to get myopic on speed, engagement or conversions – Avoid getting dragged into the weeds on metrics; keep the big picture in focus.
- Trying to boil the ocean – this is a process, and your strategy must be iterative. Fix it first, then optimize it, next differentiate it.
A New Model for Digital Experience Delivery
The gap in digital user experience today is leaving real money on the table. Online applications continue to gain complexity, but they rely on an inefficient and outdated web architecture. Constant ingenuity and the ability to leverage new content deliver technology is requisite to exceed ever-higher user expectations.
The one-size-fits-all manner of legacy delivery systems is still the norm today, but they are not the only option!
Yotttaa’s whitepaper, Beyond CDN: A New Model for Digital Experience Delivery, covers the evolution of content delivery systems, and highlights a new model for digital experience delivery that starts with the end-user and works backwards.