Improving Website Speed

No one likes a slow website. Everyone knows this, and I’ve even written about speeding up your website before.

In the past, users would be willing to wait approximately seven seconds for a web page to load before they leave. Now, as users are getting used to faster sites, and higher bandwidth from their cable or DSL provider, they are even less willing to wait.  Some recent reports are stating that after two seconds (the holy grail of web speed), users are starting to leave the site to find a faster site. It is so important Google even uses a website’s page speed in their ranking algorithms.

Over the last six months, I’ve been updating a local orthodontist’s site. When I started it would take nearly 10 seconds to load. However, as I updated the site we got the site to load in under six seconds simply by changing the order in which elements on the page load. While this is a huge improvement, it still was not enough.

Since that time, I’ve worked and gotten the load time down to approximately two seconds. There were several techniques used to generate these results:

  • Optimizing images to make the download size smaller. Some images were reduced to less than half of their original size.
  • Compressing text downloads. Just like “WinZip” or “Compressed Folders” allow you to save space on your hard drive, you can compress some web files so they don’t take as long to download. Compressing files can reduce some of those files up to 60%, which means faster downloads. The key is to know which ones matter, and to implement it correctly.
  • Improving the cacheing of files. This affects users who view more than one page. By improving the cache, you can dramatically improve the speed for the follow up pages, as they can keep copies of files on their local machine. There is some built in cache for everyone’s web browser, however a strong web developer can provide further improvements.
  • Eliminating unnecessary files from being downloaded. Turns out there were some resources that were not being used. By removing the unnecessary files, the site loads faster, the client can have more simultaneous users on their website, and the cost of hosting can potentially go down!
  • Simplifying the CSS files, removing unnecessary rules. Like the unnecessary files, some of the files had unnecessary parts. Reducing their size makes for faster websites.
  • Further optimizing the loading order of the files. Testing the site to see what needs to load when can provide a huge bonus to your speed.

It takes time and effort, but as research by Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have all shown, faster websites can affect the (financial) bottom line.

You need to make sure your site goes as fast as you can allow, without sacrificing the functionality that you need.

If you do not have the resources to improve your website’s performance, contact me. I’d love to see what I can do to help.

About Walter Wimberly

Walter is a strong believer in using technology to improve oneself and one's business.