22/03/2013

By Christopher Hamilton, development manager at Inviqa

On the Internet nothing causes people as much grief, anger and aggravation than a slow loading website.

If a website does not load within the critical first 2 seconds, 50% of viewers will simply click away and most of them won’t return, according to surveys by Akamai and Gomez.com. This means lower conversion rates, lower rankings on searches and anaemic traffic.

And this rule is not only applicable for small websites. Google saw a drop of 20% traffic because a page loaded half a second slower than normal. Amazon experienced substantial revenue losses because page load speed increased by 100 milliseconds.

Blimey!

So how do you make your website load super-fast? Get started with these recommendations:

1. Compress images: Uncompressed images on your website are a sure way of ensuring that your site will feel sluggish while loading. This often results in a decline of site users. For web graphics, use GIFs or PNGs over JPGs. This will ensure a smoother site running. If you do have to use JPGs (for example, a photograph) use image editors to resize the image. Also specify image dimensions to help the browser wrap the non-visual elements during initial loading.

2. Optimise code: Lazy load images, CSS and JS often are the cause of site trouble. Arrange external JS and CSS so that they are loaded later, or combine several CSS and JS files into one. Configure your server so that everything is compressed (the GZIP compression algorithm cuts down size by almost 70%). Parallelised download of files from cookieless domains can also decrease loading times. These steps will ensure that your website runs at a faster pace.

3. Use free tools: Tools like PageSpeed Insights and Webmaster Tools from Google and YSlow (based on Yahoo’s rules for high performing sites) can help you pinpoint leakages and suggest improvements. Taking advantage of these free tools can help to unlock your site’s full potential, so they are definitely worth taking note of.

4. Use a CDN: When you host your site on a good CDN (content delivery network) your static assets are hosted in different data centres spread across the globe. A CDN minimises location problems, which leads to problems of slow browsing being reduced. A browser located in London won’t have to send server requests to a distant data centre in Seattle — it will send them to a nearer data centre, maybe in London or Paris. This means faster loading times, almost 100% uptime and reduced bandwidth usage.

5. Speed up for mobile web users: The number of web users accessing data from their mobile devices continues to increase. It is important that your website can adapt so that the site can be accessed by this large number of mobile users. Compared to desktop devices, mobile devices have lower CPU speeds and often have to work on slow data networks. Solve this problem by minimising the amount of JS that’s needed to render the page and delay parsing the unneeded JS until it has to be executed.
If you are redirecting visitors to a mobile specific landing page — for example www.mysite.com to m.mysite.com — make the redirect cacheable to speed up loading times for repeat visitors.

Parting thoughts

Since your website is a living, growing entity you will have a full time job tweaking and updating it to improve the performance and load speed. While these five tips are by no means exhaustive or comprehensive, implementing them will result in significant time savings.

Digital Marketing moves at lightening pace and marketers need access to the latest information and advice – a new event — The Digital Marketing Show is taking place in Excel, London in November – If you want to speak or exhibit at the Digital Marketing Show visit www.digitalmarketingshow.co.uk or call Ray on 0845 5000 328

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