If you are related to e-commerce, you can’t have missed Shopify, one of the largest platforms for online store creation. To start selling your products with Shopify, you don’t have to have expertise in website development at all. The service saves you a lot of worries: no need to look for hosting, check compatibility of different plugins and levels of security, or schedule software updates. Shopify does it for you.
However, there is a downside to such an approach: Shopify users cannot fully control some of the key parameters of their store, its performance in particular. Meanwhile, a slow store load is something to avoid at any cost: it discourages the end users and deprives the website of traffic. The thing is, search engines range the results based not only on the content of the request, but also on the speed of page load.
In this post, we are sharing what can be done to speed up the work of your online store in Shopify, and which factors are uncontrollable, no matter what you do.
Just in case you still haven’t heard of it, a few words about the reasons behind Spotify being the first choice of so many online store owners. Shopify has an online store engine that supports some basic functions: your store display window, your catalog, and the check-out. It gives the client not only the content management system (CMS), but also hosts the website, that is, provides space to store it.
Vital features are covered, but you can also use additional ones, such as a larger number of payment gateways, SMS mailings, catalog publishing in social networks, etc. They are provided by plugin applications that can be created by both Shopify and third-party developers. There is also a way to give your online store some recognizable identity with Themes that customize the appearance of the display window, goods presentation, and other visual features.
If you need even more customization, you will have to master Liquid, a template language that lets you create your own themes and modules. These are, in fact, elements of programming, albeit with a limited scope: you can’t change the engine code with Liquid.
So what can be done to make your store on Shopify run faster? Here are some basic ways to improve its performance.
Extending the capabilities of your online store with applications, you also add additional code to the site, which is executed when the customer uses a certain function, or simply when loading a page. Even if the application is created by talented developers and the code is well-optimized, adding more code will reduce your store performance, at least slightly. The more applications, the slower your site load. If there are bugs in the app code, a single plugin on the home page can seriously reduce the entire resource load speed.
What can be done:
Disable all app features you don’t use.
Uninstall the apps you no longer need.
Upgrade all the installed modules — developers may have already improved their performance.
Caution! After being deleted from the store, many apps leave their code on its pages. It can slow down the site, too. Clean the store template from unused artifacts by yourself or with the help of a specialist.
Some themes are specifically optimized for maximum performance. Perhaps the features they have will be enough for you.
What else can be done:
Deactivate the theme features that you are not using
Disable elements that significantly affect your speed, such as pop-ups that appear when you point to an image or a button
If your theme settings allow, try the system font: it comes with the engine instead of being downloaded separately
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Visual content is a key element of high sales today, but beware of putting a maximum number of images on the page. You also shouldn’t try to show your product from every possible angle or upload all available videos. These may have disastrous consequences for page load speed. We are not telling you to stop using media files, but recommend carefully evaluating what to show in your store display window.
Here’s what you can do:
Upload images that are already optimized for web viewing. In most cases, a resolution of 2,000 pixels per side will be more than enough.
Forget about sliders — they load additional code to show a sequence of pictures.
Optimize video size and, if possible, disable autoplay.
The program code used to write the theme of your store may contain blocks that increase page load time. Unoptimized cycles or selections that load large amounts of data into memory can seriously decrease your site’s performance. Detecting and fixing problem areas in the code requires knowledge of Liquid and some programming skills. You can immerse yourself in practicing deep customization of Shopify Themes, or invite a specialist to optimize the code.
What can be done:
By and large, the four points above are the only ones that you can influence in order to manage your store performance on Shopify. It’s more than nothing, but a large number of parameters that affect page load speed are outside your reach. Here’s what you can’t improve in Shopify:
That is, the engine and everything it interacts with: databases, requests, security certificates, or domain management. If developers have made a mistake, or some of the elements work slowly, you can only complain to the support.
Server-Side Page Cache
What information is cached, how much it accelerates or slows down interactions with the server, and whether the caching operation is optimal enough — in Shopify it will always be a black box for you.
You will not be able to specify which elements of the page should be stored in your browser to speed up page load when a user visits it again, or how often this cache will be updated.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
You won’t know how Shopify works with the distributed server system, where they are located, or how they process information. You cannot select a CDN provider.
The assets inside the content_for_header Liquid object
It is a mandatory object in the page header that contains a list of scripts. These are basic components of an online store, such as a shopping cart or a pay button. You cannot change their content. The platform only promises to “optimize the tag and its assets to make it faster”.
Needless to say, Shopify is a convenient platform that opens the door to the world of e-commerce for entrepreneurs who do not have any experience in creating a website. However, if your business goes well, sooner or later you will have to deal with closed system constraints, such as relatively expensive scaling, limitations in customization, and insufficient performance control.
If you are not ready for such limitations or have outgrown Shopify already, think about launching your own site. This way, you can create a unique resource and have more opportunities to manage its parameters, including the load speed. And if you have any problems or performance issues, PFLB will be happy to help you solve them!