Why is My Drupal Website Slow?

Alliance  ·  March 05

Great performance of your Drupal 9 or 8 website is now more important than ever when it comes to converting online traffic into customers. Drupal 9 is an incredibly complex platform that allows for endless website design and capability features, but if routine maintenance is not accounted for, it can result in an incredibly slow loading website.

What many don’t realize is that website performance plays a major role in improving search rankings, conversion rates, and user experience. This article discusses reasons why your Drupal website is slow, how to understand the factors that play a role in website performance, and recommendations for potential updates that can be made.

Why is website performance so important?

Website performance plays a key role in user experience and conversion rate. The average preferred load speed is approximately 1-2 seconds, any slower than that and your business risks losing traffic to other competitors. Many people use smartphones to access information quickly, so when something isn’t loading properly they are likely to just click off and move on to the next search result. This loss of traffic means less sales for your business, thereby impacting your conversion rate. This is why it is so important to make sure your website is up to speed.

Another impact that website performance has is on your search engine rankings. Google ranks well performing websites higher. So not only does performance impact who stays on your website, but it also plays a role in visibility of your brand among competitors.

If you don’t increase the performance of your Drupal website to load within that optimal two second timeframe, you risk losing the attention of your website visitors and the opportunity to convert them into future customers.

Before we begin noting some of the reasons your Drupal website might be slow loading, below are some tools to give you some insight about your site’s performance:

GT Metrix and Pingdom – These tools will give you an instant report noting your current website load speed

Google PageSpeed Insights – Gives you a more in-depth evaluation of your website performance

What is Google PageSpeed Insights?

Google PageSpeed Insights is a measurement tool developed by Google in 2013 to help evaluate your website performance. It is one of the most nationally recognized tools used for gaining a better understanding of the performance of different pages on your website and how to make them faster. PageSpeed Insights also takes a look at both mobile and desktop versions of a website to help better understand which ones are not performing up to par.

There are two types of data collected by PageSpeed Insights including:

Lab data – Collected in a controlled environment through a specific device and network. Lab data is helpful for finding bugs or other common errors that could be slowing things down.

Field data – Collected in more of a real time setting to give a better understanding of different user experiences.

The field data is based on a Chrome User Experience report which is further broken down into the following categories:

First Contentful Paint (FCP) – This is when a browser renders the first bit of content from a URL, generally a good user experience for this metric is a load speed of 1 second or below. Anything over 3 seconds is considered poor.

First Input Delay (FID) – This metric reflects the time it takes for a page to load when a user first clicks a button or link on a website

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – This metric reflects the time it takes for the largest piece of content for a website to load

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – This measures the significance of unexpected layout changes within a page

The breakdown of a PageSpeed Insights Report gives an overall performance score through 100. However, it doesn’t break down the average load time of your website so you will need to take this into account when assessing your score.

The score breaks down into the following three categories:

Poor Red 0-49

Average Orange 50-89

Good Green 90-100

Reasons Your Drupal Website is Slow Loading

  • Size of images and files, as well as overall amount on your website

File size and total number of files both play a role in the overall performance of your Drupal website. If you have too many large images or other media your website is more than likely going to be slow. Uncompressed large image files can easily slow down your Drupal website. A good rule of thumb is to keep all images no larger than 1920px wide for desktops and 700px wide for mobile devices.

  •  Amount of Modules enabled

Drupal offers thousands of different modules that can help increase different functionalities on your website. While it may seem like the more modules the better, too many will result in a slow loading website due to too much data for your server to process. Instead, choose only the necessary modules for your Drupal website. You can test how different modules individually affect load time by deleting them one by one and retesting website speed using the pingdom or GT metrix tools mentioned above.

  • Too much external script running on your website

When a Drupal website renders a web page, it might come across unnecessary external scripts that could increase load time, potentially even forcing a browser to load multiple times. You may need to have your website code adjusted to prevent this from occurring and affecting performance. If you are not a technical expert, we would recommend consulting a Drupal expert to prevent your website from going down trying to do this yourself.

If your Drupal website has too much unnecessary code, it affects the browser load time due to increased time to identify different website components such as text, colors, and imagery. Minification is the process of removing any unnecessary or duplicate code or data without affecting how this data is processed within the browser, allowing for better overall performance.

  • Server Issues

If your server lacks the capabilities to keep your Drupal website up and running, this may cause issues. You may want to look at whether your server provides a high enough level of data storage for the Drupal website to properly load the features and functionality that make up your website.  Another server related issue could be your hardware, so make sure any necessary maintenance is taken care of for this.

  • Hosting Issues

If your Drupal website is not performing at an optimal level, you may want to reconsider your hosting provider. Using shared hosting can cause poor website performance and not enough data storage for the website to load properly. If your website requires a high level of data storage, dedicated hosting might be your best option.

  • Page Redirects

If you have made some updates to your Drupal website but forgotten to remove some of the old URLs, it may impact your website performance as it forces a server to go through these pages before rendering the most recent up to date ones.

  • Using an Out of Date Drupal Module or Themes

If your Drupal website is using out-of-date themes or modules, it can cause the website to load slower. If you are unsure if your website needs some updates to these components, you may want to consider having a third party Drupal website audit done as they can easily identify if this is a cause of a slow loading website and provide the necessary maintenance to correct this.

Improving your Website Performance

Overall, there are a number of factors that have an impact on your Drupal website performance. Below are a few suggestions for improving your website performance to provide a great online experience for your website visitors.

Choose Better Hosting – Choosing good hosting services will help improve your website performance. You want to avoid shared hosting, which can lead to slow loading websites. A good hosting provider will help protect content, provide faster performance and keep content secure. To learn more about cloud hosting options and website support services, click here

Optimize Image Files – One of the main contributors to slow loading pages is large image files. Consider having your larger images and media files optimized to provide a better user experience. The average page size should remain around 500KB for optimal load speed, however many websites incorporate files much larger than this which tend to slow things down. To better understand your website performance, you can click here for a free assessment of your website.

Make sure your website is mobile responsive – Having a website that is not optimized for use on a mobile device can lead to issues such as poor image rendering, broken links, slow load time, a confusing website layout, and a poor user experience. Since over 60% of traffic now comes from a mobile device, a responsive website design is no longer an option- it’s a standard.

Enable Compression – Compression allows your website to provide smaller file sizes in order to improve load time on the browser for a website visitor. Compression is enabled through addition of code to a file known as .htaaccess.

Minify CSS – Minification is the process of removing an unnecessary or duplicate data without affecting how this data is processed within the browser. By removing this additional data a website is able to load more efficiently.

In order to improve your Drupal website performance, it is important that your website undergo routine maintenance to keep performing well. Routine website maintenance will also ensure any bugs, large files, or hosting issues are corrected to help provide the best possible user experience. 

Need help with your Drupal Development, Hosting, or Maintenance? Alliance Interactive is a full service Washington, DC based digital agency offering Drupal Hosting and Maintenance services since 2004.

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