Everybody wants a fast website. Faster load times mean better search rankings, more visitors, and more conversions. Unfortunately, few website owners turn this into reality. Stats show the average desktop website is over three times slower than recommended.
Why is this so? Well, it would be too easy to say owners don’t care about their websites. A lot of owners actually want to speed up their websites, but they don’t know where to start. That’s why most hosting companies tout their speed (and uptime) as main selling point, and that’s why the professional web hosting reviewers over at the Hosting Tribunal created the infographic that follows.
If you also want to improve the performance of your web page or if you just want to learn about website speed, this is the article for you. We will outline several things you can do to keep your load times in check.
Mind, before applying any changes to your website, create a full backup. Also, the optimizations that follow cannot remedy a slow server; if you suspect that your current hosting provider underperforms, make sure to explore other options.
Minimize HTTP Requests
The problem here is that what is neat to humans is often suboptimal for a machine.
Images, scripts, videos, etc., are all page elements. Now, a human might not see what the big deal is about putting 50 different elements together to form a page. However, when downloading that page, each element requires an HTTP request.
You might think your server can handle 50 HTTP requests without a hitch. But what if a hundred visitors want to see the page or even a thousand? The server will need time to process all those requests.
Your best bet is to minimize the number of files by combining several files into one. This directly reduces the number of HTTP requests and improves your load times.
Do you remember when we said what is neat for a human is not necessarily neat for a machine? Well, there are certain things web developers do to make their code more orderly. But from the browser’s perspective, these things just add to the bulk of the code.
Code doesn’t need to have line breaks, whitespaces, or indentations. All these help humans navigate through the code better but add no functional value. Minifying is removing these unnecessary sections of code. This reduces its size of files and makes it easier to send them to the user’s browser.
Enable GZIP Compression
Enabling GZIP is standard practice among developers nowadays. Files like CSS and HTML usually have a lot of repeated code and whitespace. This is precisely what GZIP uses. When added to your source code, GZIP compresses all files before sending them to the client.
It does this by locating said instances of repeated code and replacing them with shorter code. This way you can send the pages up to 70% faster. The pages are decompressed at the client‘s end. This way load times are shorter and nothing is lost in the process.
Enable Server Caching
All of your pages typically have static content. This is the content that doesn’t change from visitor activity. Still, before being requested, pages do not exist as separate files. This means the server has to generate a page every time it gets a request—even the parts that are always the same.
Server-side caching, however, stores the static content of a page as an HTML document on first visit. Every subsequent time someone requests that same page, the server has a response prepared for them. It wastes no resources on generating the same content multiple times.
Use a Content Delivery Network
Finally, you can rent the services of a CDN. CDNs work similarly as caching. The only difference is that a CDN stores your static content on various servers in different locations. There are several benefits to this.
First, clients in faraway locations can access the content from a server closer to them. This reduces potential latency issues.
Second, having your content on a network of servers in different locations means your data is more secure.
Finally, CDNs provide a solution to traffic spikes. When traffic overwhelms one server, the others can help by taking over some visitors. That way you don’t have to pay exuberant sums for enough resources to make it through peak hours.
There are other ways to speed up your website, too. However, these are the starting tips on how to make your site load faster. Follow this little guide and you will see immediate improvement. And if you wish to learn more about how speeds affect websites, there is some interesting data in the infographic below.