When judging the speed and stability of your website, users will undoubtedly use your homepage as a proxy for the performance of your entire web application. This is for several obvious reasons. Your homepage–in nearly every instance—is the first impression that your users (and potential customers) encounter. The old adage that “your first impression is the last impression” certainly applies to your website. Just like when you are meeting a new acquaintance at a work event, a networking soiree, or a casual party, your website is displaying a first impression to many individuals throughout the day.
Because of this, you obviously want to make a great first impression for new users visiting your website. Just as an example, let’s think of great and not-so-great scenarios. One of the better scenarios is that a user types your website into his or her browser and is quickly brought to your homepage. The page loads within a second or two and your user happily begins to explore your page. The user, because of the positive experience he or she received on your homepage, will also give you some more leniency if some of your other pages load somewhat more slowly. On the flip side, one of the worst-case scenarios is when a user inputs your URL into his or her browser, and then waits. And waits some more. And waits even more. Eventually, the user simply gives up (and perhaps goes to the website of one of your competitors).
That said, I have noticed a fairly long trend of web applications that are selecting heavier and more complicated homepages. While there are several reasons for this, one of the most prominent reasons is there is a desire to include as much information as possible on the homepage. The homepage can be very media heavy, including several videos or images that can significantly hamper performance. In addition to this, many homepages include ads and social media widgets that can slow down load times even more. Considering these facts, it isn’t surprising to hear that a website’s homepage can be one of the slowest pages on a website.
It is unacceptable for your homepage to be clunky and slow. As mentioned above, nearly every single user to your website is going to see your homepage. Therefore, it is worth going the extra mile to ensure that your users receive an excellent experience right off the bat. Luckily, there are a number of things you can (and should) do to make sure your homepage is running smoothly. First, if your homepage is generated by an application server, you should consider using page-level caching. This can greatly improve your website’s performance, as it results in significantly faster load times while simultaneously decreasing the load on your server. You also have the option of making your homepage a simple HTML page, allowing you to bypass the application server altogether. These are just two options, but the point stands: you can consider a wide range of alternatives in order to speed up your webpage. All that is required is your creativity and your willingness to act.
Ultimately, performance improvements to your homepage will result in happy and satisfied users. This is a task that you simply can’t avoid. Whether you do it yourself, collaborate with your team, or hire a third-party to help you with this task, we urge you to take it seriously. Your users will thank you.