Improve Your OpenCart Store's Speed with NitroPack

Why is speed important?
A fast website is just like breathing; we assume that it will work straight away. It is only when we are deprived of what we take for granted that we realize how essential it is. 
A fast website is certainly not something that we usually hear people brag about, because that is what a website should be - fast. On the opposite end, a slow website is something that irritates users and can cause your dropout rate to increase. According to a recent study by Akamai & Forrester, a website with 5 seconds to load resulted in 20% of people dropping out. Another study showed that 52% of visitors consider speed to be an essential criteria for returning to a website. Here are more figures taken directly from search engine conducted research:
  • +500 milliseconds (speed decrease) results in -20% traffic loss. 
  • +400 milliseconds (speed decrease) results in -5-9% full-page traffic loss - the visitor left before the page finished loading.
  • +100 milliseconds (speed decrease) results in -1% sales loss. 
Delving deeper, studies show that a slow website results in lower perceived credibility (Fogg et al. 2001), lower perceived quality (Bouch, Kuchinsky, and Bhatti 2000) and increased user frustration (Ceaparu et al. 2004). The bottom line is: even if you are not a Fortune 500 company, and 100 milliseconds are not very important to you, your business still needs a fast website - at least faster than your competitors’ websites. 
There are a variety of ways to speed up your website involving coding skills, passion, determination, blood, sweat and tears. We understand that as a store owner, you want to focus your time on running your ecommerce store, rather than solving coding riddles and researching. Thus, we believe that a comprehensive one-fix-all-awesome solution is something that you might be looking for - meet NitroPack.
What is NitroPack?
NitroPack is the first complete Web Performance Optimization Framework for OpenCart. The goal of NitroPack is rather simple: it is designed to boost your page loading speed, increase your SEO, SEM, enhance your Google and Yahoo rankings, and improve overall user experience. 
How fast is my OpenCart store?
There are a number of tools that serve as a gauge for your OpenCart store speed. Two of the most renown ones are GTMetrix and Pingdom
When it comes to checking your store speed for free, GTMetrix is among the titans. It provides a comprehensive breakdown featuring Google PageSpeed and Yahoo’s YSlow. GTMetrix allows you to identify your website’s highs and lows, as well as estimate the impact that the metric has on the overall score. It goes without saying, but the higher percentage and grade that your ecommerce store gets, the better. You can generate a free store speed report here
As an alternative for GTMetrix, we will be using another service - Pingdom. Here, information is easier to comprehend and neatly organized into blocks of data. Pingdom is especially cool as it allows for multiple locations testing (Europe, USA, etc.) - this is particularly useful as you can see how many seconds it takes for different servers around the world to open your website. Find out how fast your ecommerce store is here.
Default OpenCart vs. NitroPack OpenCart
Before we evaluate our tests, I would like to mention that the goal of all comparisons is to show how NitroPack can improve your OpenCart store. Whilst the out-of-the-box version of OpenCart is great as it is, NitroPack can help you get the most out of your OpenCart store.
Now, the time has come to view and compare a standard OpenCart installation with NitroPack, and measure the performance of each. For the set up we have used a modest shared hosting server, where we have set up two OpenCart installations:
a) Default OpenCart 
b) Default OpenCart with NitroPack + Theme Performance Optimization. (Theme Performance Optimization is a customization package service performed by our development team).
GTMetrix Benchmark
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Let's get visual and begin with the benchmarking. On the left of the above image, we can see the results gathered from the default OpenCart installation, and on the right is OpenCart with NitroPack. 
Although OpenCart is already very fast, our study shows that on average NitroPack can load your page even faster, serves a smaller page size and makes fewer requests. NitroPack can also give you a higher Google PageSpeed and Yahoo YSlow Grade. Crunching the numbers, we get 3 times smaller page size with 40% less number of requests and an astonishing 40% faster website load. 
Let’s view some more charts, taken from the benchmark:

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Above, we can see a comparison between the standard OpenCart and the NitroPack equipped OpenCart. The head to head comparison concentrates on the difference between Google Page Speed Scores and YSlow Scores. In both metrics higher scores read as better, so we have marked the difference in red.

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Again, we are viewing a large difference between a standard OpenCart store and a NitroPack OpenCart store. This time, lower Page Size, Page Load Time and Request Counts are considered a plus, hence we have signified the difference with a green arrow.
Read more about this report here.
Pingdom Benchmark
In the beginning of this blog post, we have stressed the importance of multiple locations testing. Website visitors who are closer to your server location are more likely to view your website faster, thus page load time is correlated to your customer's geo-location. In the case of GTMetrix, the test query is initialized from Canada, whereas our budget test server is located in Europe. One of Pingdom's servers is located in the Netherlands, so we have performed another comparison test between the standard OpenCart and NitroPack OpenCart. We have used the Pingdom benchmarking tool for this test:
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This chart shows that the standard OpenCart website loads a lot faster than our previous results showed. What's more, the standard OpenCart is looking impressive with a grade of 79/100 and load time of only 1.08s. These results stand much better compared to the GTMetrix test. After all, this test shows we have a website which is faster than 88% of all tested stores. Now, lets see how NitroPack scores.
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NitroPack is able to improve OpenCart even further, earning a grade of 97/100 and just 562 ms of page load time. In this test the page loaded twice as fast as the standard OpenCart store, and NitroPack served a 3+ times smaller page size - merely 187 KBs compared to 505.9 KBs in the test with the standard OpenCart.
Final Words
With this blogpost, we hope that we have raised your awareness of the vast importance that website speed plays for ecommerce stores. Website speed can make the difference between a customer choosing your website over your competitors and losing sales. The bottom line is; with NitroPack, your store will go from OooopenCaaaart to OC. (Hint: count the time it takes you to say both and you will see what we mean).
How to Get NitroPack
If you are interested in increasing your OpenCart store's speed, download NitroPack from the extension store today. Find out more information about NitroPack here.
This blog post has been sponsored by iSenseLabs. 
Please note that whilst OpenCart recommends NitroPack, all views and opinions in this blog post belong to NitroPack / iSenseLabs, and are not those of OpenCart. OpenCart is not responsible for any opinions or claims made in this blog post. 
The speed at which your website loads is greatly influenced by your server, so NitroPack is not 100% guaranteed to improve your website’s loading speed.

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