At the beginning of August, my family went to a cottage in Quebec for a few days of holiday. While it was intended as time off, I took my computer to get some work done.
It was not to be.
The cottage Internet speed was so slow that it reminded me of the days of dial-up. Even email took a painfully long time to load. The area had no cell coverage so it wasn’t even an option to use mobile data.
Usually, I’m a fan of a technology detox. But on this trip, it was always the plan that I would work while away so it was painful to do anything online.
Then the chills and the fever hit. I felt worse and worse as I shivered. Still I tried to work.
We went into the nearby town, found a pharmacy and got the COVID test kit. I tested positive for COVID and one by one, so did the rest of the family.
Not only did I have slow Internet but I had COVID too! And I wasn’t sure which was worse. Thanks to being vaccinated and getting the milder strain, the COVID symptoms were tolerable. I wish I could say the same about the slow Internet.
When I first started working freelance, I didn’t have high speed Internet at home. Before going freelance, I worked at a design agency. When I needed large files, I would download them at work and bring them home.
At home, I relied on dial-up for Internet access. In those days (2005), I would dial in to my Internet Service Provider to connect to the Internet, and then download and send email messages. Maybe I would upload some files to the site I was working on and then disconnect again. I had limited dial up hours each month, so I couldn’t stay connected the whole time.
Because the dial-up modem used the phone line, I would regularly disconnect from the Internet to find a voicemail from a client.
Eventually, I got a dedicated Internet connection and was able to enjoy talking on the phone and checking the client’s website at the same time!
At the cottage, I could barely check email and I couldn’t phone anybody. Really brought me back to those early days of freelancing!
It was also an excellent reminder of why optimizing your website matters (you knew I’d work it back to that somehow!). There are plenty of stats out there about how quickly people will abandon a website if it doesn’t load quickly enough. Add to that caps on mobile data usage, and you can see that it makes sense to optimize your site.
If you want to see how your site is doing, run a test on GT Metrix. I use this tool all the time for evaluating site performance. It not only quantifies site speed and structure but it also provides actionable ways to improve both. This is much better than loading a page into your browser and subjectively deciding “It’s slow” or “It’s fast.”
GT Metrix also allows you to track performance over time and even automate those checks.
When I’m optimizing your website, trying to make it run as fast as possible for your visitors, I start with a baseline score in GT Metrix. Then I look at improving the site in these areas:
- Server configuration
- Site configuration
- WordPress setup
- Page design and layout
- Image size and compression
Server – There are various settings on the webhost that affect site performance. We speed up the site by tweaking these, either on my own or with the hosting company’s help.
Site configuration – The configuration of the site and the functionality of the site greatly affect site performance. Optimizing the site means balancing the functionality and design of the site against the delivery of that design/functionality. Ideally, we never have to compromise but in reality we may have to.
Caching – I love (and sometimes hate) caching so much that I wrote a whole separate post about it. Unless the site is fairly simple, caching will dramatically boost speed.
The next time you’re in the woods, far from civilization with slow or no (gasp!) Internet – think of me.
For me, website speed optimization has become something of an obsession. Maybe that time at the cottage or more likely, my early days as a web developer on dial-up have changed me forever.
Photo credit: David Selbert on Pexels