Get your Joomla site to load in under one second

Get your Joomla site to load in under one second Happy Dog Web Productions

Why does loading time matter?

It's simple. Speed kills — in a good way. Your bounce rate, conversions — heck, even your site's SEO performance changes for the better once your load times decrease. Take a look at this detailed graph that illustrates how conversions drop drastically with slower sites:

conversion rate fall-off landing page speed

Credit: Web Performance Today

With that graph in mind, note that the average site can load within three to seven seconds. Google has just put out this benchmark proving that page speeds should be improved upon.

Page Load Time

Where does your site rank? Use a tool like GT Metrix to find out. Then, get ready to make improvements. After all, you want to be the best, right? Let's get your site to load in under one second.

Initial analysis

This phase is a rough overview. Do you notice any major things that could be slowing down your site? Does your page have tons of dynamic content on it? How does it load initially in your opinion?

Many times, it is right here where a big problem can be spotted. Perhaps a ginormous background image or a background movie could be a culprit. Maybe you notice the page loads and then stalls for a bit while a social media module or plugin loads. These things matter, folks. Addressing these right off the bat is crucial.

If you have large images, optimize the heck out of them with Smushit. If you have lots of images, see if you can make a CSS sprite (and no, I'm not talking about Sprite as in soda!). If you must have videos and social media, be prepared to have the page load slower (at least a little). Most importantly, if your site is responsive, remove all unnecessary stuff on your mobile version. Your mobile browsing users will thank you. Address the major, immediate concerns right off the bat, and get ready to really speed things up! Also keep in mind that fun things like calling YouTube videos and using Google Fonts also make loads times slower as well.

Extensions do more than add onto your site; they potentially add loading time

Joomla is awesome because it is so extensive. You can turn any site into almost anything with Joomla's capabilities. But each plugin, module, or extension adds their own CSS and Javascript to the mix, adding to heavier load times.

I'm not saying ditch extensions, because there are a lot that do great things. But keeping content in the core definitely has its speed benefits too. It's just something to keep in mind. The more your site becomes a "Franken-Site", the slower it could potentially run.


Credit: Happy Dog Web Productions

Requests are for Facebook, not your website

The more requests someone makes of you, the longer it takes to give them results, right? The same holds true for your website and its server. By limiting the number of requests, you are limiting the amount of time it takes the server to bring your website "to glass" (render).

What is in a request? Every image, CSS file, JavaScript file, font file, and other associated file that the webpage has to pull from the server is a request. The more little pings back and forth that you have asking for things adds up. If you reduce your requests, you reduce your load time.

How do you do this? In Joomla, you can use a plugin called JCH Optimize. But tread carefully! By combining CSS and JavaScript files, chances are you may wreck your page, template, or site. It is best to try this out on a development server or have a professional assist you in this. You can drastically reduce your requests and minimize your file sizes with this plugin done right.

Sweet, sweet cache

I'm not talking about ca$h, but cache. What does it mean to "cache" something? By the dictionary definition, it's a verb that means store away for future use. How does this relate to your website?

Typically your website hits up the server, and the server performs the operations (database queries, etc.) and spits out the returned result. What caching does is when a page is loaded, the server stores the equivalent of a photocopy of that webpage. The next time someone asks for that webpage, the server will just spit out the copy quickly instead of running the functions required to render that page.

This drastically reduces load time. I've seen over 50% reduction before. Make sure you use cache especially on sites where the content isn't updated as frequently. In Joomla, you have two options for cache (after you enable the plugin). Conservative or progressive caching are your two options. Conservative caching is the way to go. Progressive caching just means that the server creates a cached copy, just for that user, not everyone as a whole. Rule of thumb: Use conservative caching almost all of the time and only use progressive caching on sites that are updated constantly.

*Bonus tip: Using a Content Delivery Network will also greatly increase your page speed. Joomla syncs up nicely with the help of extensions, such as NoNumber's CDN For Joomla.

So, let's recap briefly what you can do to ensure your site loads in one second or less:

  • Eliminate the clutter and unused extensions, and move more towards the core
  • Simplify your content
  • Reduce your requests (below 10 is not too shabby)
  • Use your cache, and use it wisely
  • If you can, use a top notch hosting provider and CDN

Now to check — again, you can use GT Metrix, which is usually pretty accurate. I like to also rely on Chrome. Within Chrome, Ctrl + Shift + C (Mac: ^ ⌘ C) to toggle Inspect Element mode. Then click on the Network tab. There are a lot of other tools to use to check page speed. Please comment with some below if you have a favorite.

So, how did you do?

Now check out your page loading time! Drastically improved, isn't it. Remember, speed kills, in a good way!


I'm interested in your experiments as well. Please comment below and let me know if you were able to break the one-second barrier.


About Ryan Boog

Ryan Boog is the president of Happy Dog Web Productions. He is very hands on with all of the projects. Taking Joomla, mobile design, and SEO to the next level are top priorities for Ryan.

In his free time he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, going to church, and studying all things Internet. Follow @hdwebpros for Happy Dog Tweets on SEO, Joomla, and mobile.

Last modified on May282013
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