WEB

Reducing page load times from 8s to under 3s

Theme modifications and switching to a LiteSpeed server speeds up average page load from 8 seconds to under 3 seconds.

Our client’s website was built in 2014. Since then, they’d seen page load speeds progressively slowing down as their website became more and more complicated. This came to a head in 2018 when the average page load for a single month eclipsed 8 seconds. The worry was that it was affecting business, not just SEO.

After a complete overhaul of the theme and a move to the new LiteSpeed Web Server, the average page load time was reduced from 8.45s to 2.68s.

Problem

Simply put, the site was large, complicated, and not optimized for speed. The site’s content is image-heavy, and the majority of the images being served were much larger than they needed to be resulting in bloated page sizes. Being nearly 5 years old, the site’s theme was outdated, built using old layouts for HTML and CSS that were cumbersome and slow to load.

On the server side, there were 117 HTTP requests required to load their homepage. Couple that with outdated Apache server software and you get server response times up around 3 seconds — this means 3 seconds go by before the page even begins to load.

Solution

To address the page speed implications of the site’s large images, we implemented lazy loading of their images. With this technique, images further down the page only load when the user gets to them, allowing initial page load resources to be used elsewhere.

The old theme was built before the days of CSS Grid and CSS Flexbox. We completely modernized the CSS and HTML layout using these CSS techniques in tandem, allowing the website to be completely responsive on all popular browsers while vastly reducing the size of the CSS files.

To fix our slow server times, we moved the website to a LiteSpeed Web Server, an Apache replacement that’s been proven to be much faster. We then implemented aggressive caching via the LiteSpeed Cache Plugin for WordPress, which has a direct interface with the web server. The server switch combined with the aggressive caching reduced the average server response time by 95%, from 2.93 seconds to a lightning fast 0.16 seconds.

Finally, we reduced the sheer number of HTTP requests by combining and minifying the CSS and JavaScript files. The results were significant—the number of HTTP requests required to load the homepage was reduced from 117 to 73.

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