Shopify has recently introduced an Online Store Speed feature which is initially displayed in the themes area of your store admin. You can also access more in-depth data on your page speed in the reports area. To learn more about this feature, this article from Shopify is a good place to start.
Please find below some FAQs about this complex subject.
Is my speed score important?
Yes. As stated in the Shopify article linked above, your online store’s speed can impact the shopping experience of your customers, your conversion rate, and your store's discoverability. A faster loading store is undoubtedly preferable to a slower loading store. Search engines also tend to give ranking preference to faster loading sites.
However it is important to state that some of the highest ranked, most successful stores in the world have relatively low page speed scores. A fast loading store does not necessarily mean a successful store. A relatively slower loading store does not mean you will have an unsuccessful store.
You might need to make some speed tradeoffs to build a user experience that leads to more sales. You could create a store that is a single page of text with no images. This would load incredibly fast but would be a poor user experience and likely result in no sales. It's best to take a holistic approach to page loading speeds.
Is my theme making my store slow?
No. It's too simplistic to say your theme is slowing down your store but it could certainly play a part in the overall picture. Your online store is made up of a huge set of assets, such as theme code, scripts, apps, images, videos, carousels, social media feeds, and analytics. Because Shopify is a "platform" system a lot of different assets are included in your store's code from different parties - such as theme developers, app developers and Shopify itself.
All themes accepted in the Shopify theme store must be optimized and go through rigorous testing to make sure they are as fast as possible. This is an ongoing process and we work hard to improve loading times with each release of our themes. Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do, in the short term, to speed up your store.
In our experience, the assets that really impact store speed are Shopify apps. Please read this article for in-depth study on how installing only a few apps can drastically decrease a Google Page Speed score.
Does this mean you should uninstall all of your apps? Not necessarily. As stated above and in the Shopify documentation "you might need to make some speed tradeoffs to build a user experience that leads to more sales."
If you have an app that brings you many conversions but is slow loading, it makes sense to work with the app developer to see if they have plans to improve the loading speed. It doesn't make sense to uninstall a profitable app. The same is true of an app that is essential to other parts of your business, like the customization of products. It's probably a good rule of thumb to run your store with as few apps installed as possible if speed is your priority.
But I spoke to Shopify support and they said the speed issues were theme related. What do I do?
Most tier-one Shopify Gurus who respond to email and live chat are not trained on the intricacies of what affects the performance of a particular store. They will first look to see if you're using one of their free themes or a premium theme from the Shopify theme store. If they see a premium theme, they are likely to tell you to "contact your theme developer" for help on this. They do not take into consideration what apps are installed, what customization has been done to the store, how heavy the content is, whether or not images are properly optimized, etc. All of these play key roles in what determines how long it takes for your store to load.
What can I do to improve my score?
Here's a list of things to try:
- If you have an older theme version, consider updating to the latest version. We are are constantly working on ways to make our themes better and faster, but there is a lot to consider when doing a theme upgrade too, so consider the trade-offs
- There are some features inside themes that can affect performance - such as loading animations, quick view features, heavy slideshows, video, social share buttons, and dynamic checkout buttons - try turning these off
- Do an audit of your apps and decide which ones are essential and must remain installed
- Uninstall unused or unimportant apps. Please be aware that simply uninstalling an app from your admin area doesn't necessarily remove all the code and scripts it has injected into the theme files. Contact the app developers or look at their help docs for full uninstallation instructions
- There are some additional suggestions from Shopify here that may help
- This is a very complex subject with lots of variables at play. You may wish to hire a company that specializes in speeding up Shopify sites (such as SpeedBoostr) to help you improve your store's performance
In conclusion, your page loading speed is important and you should absolutely take it seriously and address what you can. However, it's not the only thing to be concerned with when running your store. It's easy to become too focused in improving your score only to sacrifice time, money and attention that could be used to build your business in other ways.