6 Steps to Improving Page Speed with Core Web Vitals
Optimizing site speed and user experience is a lot of work and gets complicated – very quickly. It requires a lot of individual work and collaboration between site managers and web developers to make improvements to a site. Google came up with a solution to make this process easier.
In late 2021, Google created new Core Web Vitals (CWV) metrics to give site owners insights and tips on what to fix. CWV metrics were intended to help developers the most, but these tools are important for all parties as it gives site owners and developers alike a better understanding of a user’s real-world experience on a page.
You may be asking yourself whether page speed and user experience are truly important for higher education websites. Would a person’s behavior on a website really change based on improvements measured in hundredths of a second? More often than not, the answer is yes – prospective students are influenced by the smallest factors.
Take page speed for instance. The probability that a person leaves a website increases substantially with every extra second it takes to load a page. According to Google, people are 32% more likely to bounce from a mobile website if page load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds. The probability of bounce increases even more going from 1 second to 5 seconds (90%), 1 second to 6 seconds (106%), and 1 second to 10 seconds (123%). The key takeaway here is that faster is always better.
What are Core Web Vitals?
Core Web Vitals are made up of three specific page speed and user interaction measurements – largest contentful paint, first input delay, and cumulative layout shift. These three factors make up Google’s page experience score.
- Largest contentful paint (LCP). This represents the amount of time to render the largest content element visible from when the user lands on a page. Images or videos are typically the largest elements on a website. LCP is important because it gives a signal to the user that the URL is loading.
- First input delay. The time it takes from a user first interacting with a page (clicking on link or button) to the browser responding to the interaction. A website user may bounce if browser response is slow after the first interaction.
- Cumulative layout shift (CLS). CLS represents a page’s stability as it loads. For instance, a website might have a high CLS if elements move or shift around as the page loads. It is ideal for elements to appear stable and smooth during the load process as it may impact a person’s ability to find certain links, images or fields once the page is fully loaded. A high CLS might also lead to people clicking on a link by mistake.
How to Improve Core Web Vitals
There are a number of measures that can be taken to improve CWV scores. It is essential that site owners and managers work closely with developers in order to prioritize the implementation of these changes. Some of the changes that can be made are listed below.
- Compress and optimize images. Audit all images on the site. Compress and optimize the files to reduce the size without impacting quality.
- Shift to a lighter WordPress theme. WordPress themes can be large and filled with features that are not needed. This can lead to unneeded processing on the backend. Understand which features are needed and scrap the others. This will help sites to render faster.
- Restructure code for mobile experience. This helps to ensure that device type is detected immediately on the first request and only mobile-specific resources are loaded. Mobile scores should improve after making this change.
- Create a dynamic system for initial page load. Put a dynamic system in place for the initial load of the page so that only “above the fold” content and resources are loaded immediately. This should allow the initial page load to occur faster with “below the fold” content loading asynchronously after.
- Removed and restructured CSS. Refactor CSS to be more precise and specific to achieve a lighter and more efficient CSS usage throughout the site. Removing redundant or unneeded CSS from the site can help to improve load times.
Understanding the Importance of Core Web Vitals
Core web vitals measure page experience. Your webpage is often the first impression for a prospective student and plays a significant role when it comes to the student experience. As mentioned earlier, page speed makes up a large part of the CWV metrics. Page speed is instrumental in how students perceive your brand on the web. With every additional second that it takes for your page to load, you are losing website visitors who could be prospective students at your college or university.
Ultimately, optimizing your core web vitals not only delivers a good user experience but also creates a positive brand impression. Understanding the importance of core web vitals will help you make thoughtful decisions around page content and website features. At EducationDynamics, our higher education marketing experts can help you maximize your website to enroll more students and guide them from consideration to graduation. Contact us today to get started.