Improve Website Speed
The importance of optimal loading speeds for business websites cannot be overstated. We live in a microwave culture in which people want everything yesterday. Whether it is standing in line for a delicious slice of pizza or waiting for a website’s page to download, customers have a low threshold for waiting. A website page that is delayed too long in loading can easily increase a site’s bounce rate. It can also lower the overall user experience of the visitors to the site. All of this leads to poor performance, which is not good.
Google’s Need for Speed
Not only are customers concerned with your site’s loading speed, but Google has also taken a significant interest in the loading speeds of sites. There are some who would say that Google is somewhat obsessed with the speed at which a web page loads. The reason that Google is so concerned with loading speeds actually takes us back to the initial point — user experience. Google wants their search engine users to have an exceptional user experience on the sites that show up in searches, so it rewards those sites that have quick loading times with higher page rankings.
Below, you will find six methods of improving your website’s loading speed, which will help improve your site’s performance and enhance the user experience of your visitors.
1. Minimize HTTP Requests
According to Yahoo, as much as 80 percent of a web page’s load time is attributed to downloading distinct portions of the page, such as scripts, flash files, images, stylesheets, etc. An HTTP request has to be made for each of these elements before they can be loaded, meaning that the more on-page elements your site has, the longer it will take for the page to be rendered in full.
This means the quickest method for speeding up the load time is to simplify the design of the site by:
- Streamlining the number of elements on a particular page
- Using CSS as an alternative to images whenever possible
- Combining multiple stylesheets into one
- Reducing the number of scripts and placing them at the bottom of the page
2. Reduce Your Server Response Time
To achieve an acceptable load time, your target should be a server response time of less than 200ms. One way that you can improve server response time is by monitoring your site for bottlenecks in performance. There are a number of web applications that offer this type of monitoring as a performance solution.
- Yslow is a tool that will allow you to effectively evaluate your site’s speed. Additionally, the program will also provide tips that will assist you in improving the site’s performance.
- Google’s PageSpeed Tools will also introduce you to many performance best practices as well as offering an automated process for enhancing the performance of the site.
3. Use Compression Techniques
It is quite possible that if you are focusing on producing high-quality content, that a significant number of your pages will be considered large — having 100kb or more of content. Subsequently, this can increase the page’s load time. The best method for speeding up the loading process for bulky pages is to use a compression technique known as zipping.
Compression functions by reducing the bandwidth of the page, which, in turn, reduces the HTTP response. This can be accomplished by using a number of programs such as Gzip. The vast majority of web servers have the capacity to compress files that are in Gzip format before they are sent through for download — either through the use of built-in routines or accessing a third-party module. According to Yahoo, this has the ability to reduce page load time by as much as 70 percent.
4. Enable Browser Caching
Browser caching can have a major impact on load speeds. When a person visits your site, the elements of the page that they visit is stored on the computer’s hard drive in a cache or temporary storage file, meaning that the next time that the user visits your site, the browser will be able to load the page without having to make a new HTTP request to the server.
5. Minimize the Resources Used to Build the Site
WYSIWYG resources make it extremely easy to build web pages; however, they can often create messy code that has the capacity to slow down the performance of the site significantly.
It is important to understand that every piece of code that is used will add to the size of the page. This makes it immensely important to eliminate unnecessary line breaks, spaces and indentations in your code, rendering your pages as lean as possible.
Google suggests using their PageSpeed Insights Chrome Extension that has the capacity to create an optimized version of the HTML code for the site. You can also use YUI Compressor and cssmin.js to minimize CSS code on your site.
6. Optimize CSS Delivery
CSS code is what holds the style requirements for your page, and it can be accessed by your website in two ways: in an external file, which is loaded prior to the page being rendered, or inline, meaning that the code is embedded into the HTML document. It is best to have this coding set up in an external file, which will decrease the size of the site’s code and speed up the loading process.
Some of the steps mentioned are easier to implement than others, but all of them are worth the time and effort that will be invested in them. If you are a person that is not technically inclined, it may be in your best interest to hire some help. A one second delay can reduce your page views by as much as 11 percent and cause a 16 percent decrease in customer satisfaction — neither of which you can afford.