How to Improve Shopify Store Loading Speed in 7 Steps

How to improve Shopify store loading speeds cover

Depending on the theme you choose, you won’t necessarily get a fast-loading Shopify store out of the gate. In fact, some themes, some apps, and certain mistakes you can make with your site can affect performance dramatically, often without you realizing it until it’s too late.

This article is a guide to the most important steps you must take to improve your Shopify store’s loading speeds and Google Core Web Vitals results (don’t worry if you don’t know what those are yet). They are theme-agnostic; they can be implemented by everyone.

These steps won’t make your store perfect (the truth is your store needs to be fine-tuned to retain speed as you grow) but they’ll make sure you avoid the common mistakes and establish a baseline of high performance that can be built upon.

Let’s dive in.

If there is one thing that you could do to make your customers happy, it would be to create a website that loads quickly and properly. Not only will a fast-loading site make it easier for your shoppers to make their purchases, but it will also help with search engine placement.

Improving the loading speed of a Shopify store is therefore essential for offering customers the kind of shopping experience that they expect and deserve. A quick-loading store can also reduce bounce rates and improve user engagement. The reason for this is that visitors are more likely to stay on a site that loads efficiently. 

We all know the frustration of going to a site that doesn’t load quickly or doesn’t load at all. Store owners seeking to improve their Shopify site’s performance should consider optimizing various aspects of their site such as images, coding practices, and the use of apps that might affect load times.

There are many factors that contribute to the speed of a Shopify store, from the themes and apps you use to the use of unoptimized images. Large files, excessive JavaScript, and bulky CSS can slow down a site, lowering the store’s search engine rankings and making potential shoppers go elsewhere. By addressing these issues, you can improve not just site speed but also SEO, leading to better visibility and more sales.

There are some very well-known methods to streamline a Shopify store’s performance, such as implementing efficient code editing, reducing file sizes, and being selective with the use of apps. By continuing to continually monitor the speed of your site and identify areas where enhancements can be made, you can help to ensure that a Shopify store remains fast, and responsive, and is what your customers expect.

1. Optimizing Images for Faster Loading

The easiest way to get your site to load faster is by optimizing your images. A lot of website owners fail to do this and the results can be catastrophic. Reduced load times and enhance the customer’s browsing experience and also improve a site’s search engine rankings.

Implement Image Compression

Image compression is essential for reducing image sizes without losing significant quality. Tools like TinyPNG or ImageOptim have long been used to drastically decrease the file size of website images. Compressed images load faster, contributing to a snappier site, and they rarely reduce the quality of the image to the point where the customers would notice.

Choose the Correct Image Format

There are many image formats to choose from, but most people will tell you that JPEG is generally best for photographs with lots of colors. The PNG format is preferable for images requiring transparency. WebP is a rather new format that offers excellent compression and quality. The problem is that it isn’t universally supported and may cause problems on mobile devices or old browsers. Choose the appropriate format for each image to balance quality with load time.

Use Responsive Images

Responsive images adapt to the size of the viewing device, ensuring faster loading times and an optimal viewing experience. What this really means is that an image that looks large on a laptop screen will look appropriately sized on a mobile phone. HTML’s srcset attribute allows you to define multiple image sizes. Then, the browser loads the most appropriate one for the device screen. This makes websites load quicker for mobile users, as they won’t have to deal with unnecessarily large images.

2. Leveraging Browser Caching

You also shouldn’t forget about browser caching. This is a powerful tool that reduces the amount of data that needs to be downloaded on repeat visits. Improving a Shopify store’s loading speed hinges significantly on how well one can leverage browser caching. This involves strategies that aim to store commonly accessed resources on the user’s local device.

Utilize Local Browser Cache

The idea behind browser caching is that you are storing website resources on a shopper’s local browser cache. Some of these resources might include CSS files, JavaScript, and images. By keeping these files in the local cache, they don’t need to be repeatedly downloaded. This technique reduces bandwidth usage and accelerates page loading times. There are several ways to take advantage of this technology, including the use of server configurations and instructing browsers on how long they should hold onto the cache.

Steps for implementation:

  • Set Cache-Control headers: Establish how long resources are stored on a visitor’s site
  • Employ ETags: Enable the browser to validate cached resources for updates at regular intervals.

Having a clear understanding of the cache browser mechanism is important before you start tweaking these settings.

Implement Lazy Loading

Lazy loading defers the loading of non-critical resources at page load time. Instead, these resources are only loaded when they are needed, which typically means when they enter the viewport of the browser. 

This method is used primarily on pages that are long or have a large number of images. While it can save a user time in the short run, it can be frustrating if they are trying to get to the bottom of the page in a hurry. However, this strategy can significantly shave off unnecessary loading time, especially for pages with numerous images or videos.

Key benefits:

  • Reduces initial page weight.
  • May enhance user experience by speeding up content delivery at the top of the page.

Shopify store owners interested in adopting lazy loading can follow a step-by-step guide to enable browser caching that includes methods for using this technology in a sensible manner.

3. Improving Javascript and CSS Delivery

Another method for speeding up your Shopify store is optimizing the delivery of CSS and Javascript files. These files determine how quickly the styles and functions become active for the user.

Minify CSS and Javascript Files

On most websites, the less code you have, the faster it is going to load. The same is also true with CSS and Javascript files. Minifying CSS and Javascript files essentially involves removing all unnecessary characters — like spaces, line breaks, and comments — without changing the functionality. You can achieve faster loading times just by compressing these files. Tools such as How To Minify CSS in Shopify provide insights on how to do this for your site.

  • Benefits include:
    • Less bandwidth consumption
    • Reduced load on the server
    • Quicker parse time by browsers

Eliminate Render-Blocking Resources

Render-blocking resources are those CSS and Javascript files that need to be loaded first. They are loaded before the browser can start rendering the page and can delay the page from being visible to users. To speed things up, there are a few options for you:

  • Move scripts to the bottom of the HTML file, which allows the browser to render the page first and then load the Javascript. This can save a lot of time in terms of page speed.
  • Inline critical Javascript and styles, or use those that are required to render the portion of the page visible to the user when the page first loads. In short, you are dividing your style sheets between the early, mandatory lines of code and the ones that can be loaded at the end.
  • Defer non-critical Javascript and CSS files to allow the browser to focus on what’s immediately needed.

By inlining CSS and Javascript, you can improve loading performance, as detailed in Shopify documents like Improving your speed.

In short, tools and practices for eliminating render-blocking resources have one purpose – to ensure users can interact with critical page content as quickly as possible.

4. Utilizing Shopify Features and Apps

The loading speed of a Shopify store can also be impacted by the themes and apps that are chosen. The right options can streamline performance and enhance a shopper’s experience.

Select Performance-Oriented Themes

When picking a Shopify theme, in addition to design, you should also put some thought into speed and efficiency. Themes with minimalistic design and smaller images often load faster, thus improving the store’s performance. Improving your performance by Shopify suggests that you should deactivate theme features they don’t use and consider using a system font to keep the site smoother and quicker.

Audit Installed Apps

Basically, the more apps you have connected to your site, the slower it is going to load. Therefore, try and take a good look at every app to determine if it is mission-critical. Every app installed from the Shopify App Store adds to the overall complexity of your site. Apps that add significant loading time might not be worth the features they bring. Instructing shop owners on how to view their ‘Online Store Speed’ report, Shopify Community suggests regular curation of apps to increase site speed.

5. Enhancing Mobile Performance

How to improve Shopify store loading speeds on mobile

It is now more important than ever before to ensure that your site is working correctly and quickly on mobile devices. A significant portion of web traffic comes from mobile devices, so quick load times and a seamless user experience are essential.

Opt for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are designed to make web content load faster on mobile devices. AMP ensures that Shopify stores are lightweight and load quickly. This results in pages that load almost instantaneously – and this can lead to better search rankings and higher customer satisfaction. The concept of AMP is supported by various platforms and browsers, making it a viable method for improving Shopify store speed on mobile.

Adapt for Mobile Web Best Practices

You should also keep in mind the “etiquette” of building a site for mobile devices – also known as mobile web best practices. This includes minimizing the use of heavy graphics and optimizing images, leveraging browser caching, and reducing the number of redirects. Using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights can provide specific recommendations for a store, such as how to improve metrics under Google’s Core Web Vitals. 

All of these practices can help create a faster, more efficient mobile shopping experience. Also, understanding the latest standards in mobile web development can help to ensure that your site is always up to speed.  Shopify’s community discussions on site speed can provide you with more information.

Applying Advanced Performance Techniques

If your primary goal is to minimize loading times, leveraging advanced performance techniques is key. Implementation of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and optimization of Shopify Liquid code can improve your site’s speed with very little effort.

Use Content Delivery Networks (CDN)

A Content Delivery Network, or CDN, is one of the most effective strategies to increase a Shopify store’s loading speed. A CDN works by distributing a store’s files across a network of servers around the world, reducing the distance between the servers and the end-user. This geographical spread ensures that users get the fastest loading times. A CDN also helps in managing traffic spikes, which can help improve your site’s uptime.

Optimize Shopify Liquid Code

Optimizing the Liquid code, Shopify’s templating language, should not be ignored. You can streamline any Liquid code to reduce the number of calculations the server has to perform. This may involve removing unnecessary whitespace, compressing images, and simplifying loops and logic statements. By doing this, you will notice an almost immediate impact on website speed, especially if you are running several third-party apps..

6. Measuring and Analyzing Performance

Before you begin making changes to your site, you should fully evaluate just how fast it is currently loading. That way, you will be better able to fully evaluate what changes are working and what changes aren’t. This involves using specialized tools to understand speed bottlenecks and monitoring how loading times affect the amount of time your visitors spend on your site, their browsing behavior, and the number of sales they make.

Utilize Speed Analysis Tools

One of the best ways to evaluate performance analysis is to use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix. They can analyze a store’s loading time and provide a speed score indicative of performance. They provide information on key factors slowing down the site as well as tips on how to fix it. Additionally, services such as WebPageTest offer more detailed insights into a website’s loading behavior across different browsers and locations. Pingdom presents simplified snapshots of speed and performance efficiency in an easy-to-use format.

Monitor Sales and Conversion Impacts

A Shopify store’s loading time can directly influence conversion rates and sales. Tracking these business outcomes through analytics platforms can give you an idea as to the connection between performance impact and customer behavior. It’s helpful to correlate dips in sales or conversions with site speed issues and prioritize fixes based on potential revenue impact. Understanding this relationship ensures that the changes you make actually result in more sales.

7. Creating a Seamless User Experience

The goal of any store owner using Shopify should be to provide the shopper with a seamless user experience. This significantly enhances customer satisfaction and amplifies conversion rates. It also requires a simple and quick checkout process and strategic prioritization of above-the-fold content to prevent the shopper from scrolling unnecessarily.

Streamline the Checkout Process

Making the checkout process as smooth as possible should be the goal of any shopping experience, either online or in person. You can achieve this by eliminating unnecessary steps and clearly displaying trust badges to reassure customers. A hassle-free checkout without any complex navigation also helps to enhance consumer trust and boost overall customer engagement.

Prioritize Above-The-Fold Content

Finally, your shopper’s first glance at the home page sets the tone for the browsing experience. Online shoppers often decide in seconds if they’ll continue browsing. By implementing effective above-the-fold content, you should be able to highlight key information and lure customers into exploring product pages. Techniques such as using bold headlines, crisp images, and clear calls to action all make a site more inviting to a customer. Ensuring this content loads rapidly also lets your customers know that you truly value their time.

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