5 Tips For Faster Websites
Posted by administrator on Monday, January 4th, 2010
They say people make a decision whether or not to read more or leave a web page within a matter of seconds. If it takes a while for your website to load, you might be losing potential customers. In today's fast-paced drive-thru want-it-now digital age, a web page (especially the home page) that loads fast is vital.
I've been doing some research recently on a few things that the "big websites" (such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc.) do to speed up their web pages. I list them here as tips you can do or ask your web developer to incorporate into your website's design:
1. Compress Images. Images are usually the slowest (or heaviest) items to download from a web server. Most of the images on your website, such as background images or logo, may be compressed (made smaller). Compressed images download faster, helping your websiite load faster. Be sure not to compress too much. Overly compressed images may look distorted or pixelated.
2. Use The Right Image Type. Note: There are basically three image formats supported by web browsers: PNG, JPEG, and GIF. Each format represents a certain way an image's information is compressed (shrunk) so that they're more portable and practical to use on the web.
Jpegs are great for images like photographs, product photos, etc. It's the most popular image format. GIFs are great for simple drawings and clip art. PNGs are best when you need a lot detail (such as a cover of a book or to show a line drawing).
4. Use Server-side Caching. If your website uses a database system in the back-end to manage your content, you could benefit from server-side caching. Server-side caching takes a snapshot of each page and saves a copy for next time a website visitor asks for the same page. This saves the system from going all the way out to the database server (usually a slower operation) to get the information it needs for every website visitor. The caching can expire everyy hour or so to keep the content fresh. We use a LOT of server-side caching on our quilterblogs.com website.
5. Use a Content Delivery Network for Heavy Content. I recall a situation I had last November when a client's website got instantly popular. Thousands tried to visit the same web page at the same time to view the video on the person's website. It overloaded the server and caused everything to behave very slowly until we could host the network on a content delivery network (CDN).
A content delivery network (such as Amazon's S3 service, Akamai, 2o7.net, and many others) keeps a copy of certain website files on servers strategically positioned all over the US and the world. That way, when a visitor from the east coast comes to your site, that visitor is getting your website's files from the CDN's server in Boston, while the visitor from the west coast might be downloading the same copy of the file from a server in Seattle. This website uses a CDN for some of its media.
There are many tools out there that can help you gauge the speed of your website and give you suggestions and good pointers to better them. My recent favorite is called Page Speed. It's available as a plugin to Firebug (which is a plugin for the Firefox web browser).
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