Web performance or website optimization simply means the optimizing the speed of web elements (pages, images, other file formats etc.) which are downloaded or displayed on the user’s web browser.
Attempts to improve download and display speeds have existed to earlier times; however, it was the Steve Souders who described it as “web performance optimization” and lead the development of this field. Considering the ever increasing connection speed worldwide, not it is an important issue for web developers.
In brief, improved web performance has certain benefits like; increase in the loyalty of your visitors, higher ranking in the search results which directly affect your traffic, more satisfied mobile users. In addition to that, it is known that web optimization leads to less data travelling across the web which in turn lowers a website’s power consumption and environmental impact. In this article, topics like the importance web performance, tips to enhance better performance and some performance testing tools will be introduced.
Why Website Loading Speed Matters
1- User Satisfaction:
It is known that user just moves on to some other site if a website makes a user wait for long time (that is your bouncing rate). Bouncing rate is an important factor that every webmaster should take into account. It simply means, when user visits your website and rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site and leaves.It is considered as one of the most important measure of effectiveness for a website. So, what is the time limit for a visitor to pleasantly wait to load your web page? In the previous years, it was considered 10 seconds maximum by some authorities while some argued that maximum waiting time should not exceed 7seconds. Considering the improved technology of today, a website with simple content should completely load within 2 seconds. What is important about this loading time is, it directly affects the satisfaction or the dissatisfaction levels of your visitors. They generally expect a fast and reliable online user experience and if the website is unable to deliver on their expectation, they will abandon it. With the increased connection speeds and accessibility to internet, the do not want to wait for a site to load patiently.They have very limited time to consume and have better things to do with it. For this reason website owners should respect web performance and loading times.
2- Improved Search Rankings:
Since April 2010, Google started to take load time into account when ranking sites. Of course Google’s algorithm uses a multiple factors to determine how to rank search engine results. Some of these factors are measurements of the authenticity of the website itself (age of the domain name, number and quality of inbound links, etc.) while others are related to the content of a webpage itself (the text, its URL, the titles and headers, etc.). However, after Google announced that they will take into account the speed of the website as well, it became in important issue for website owners. So, improving your page load time is an effective way to help visitors get where they are going faster. Consequently, as a website owner if you care about your Google ranking and if you want to get more traffic from Google, you should advance your website’s performance.
3- Mobile Users:
It can be said that generally mobile users are more patient than computer users. Main reason for that,they are used to have slower internet speed. But still, considering today’s connection speeds, loading time for mobile users is an important factor. Website owners should take into account this factor while creating tools that manage mobile versions of webpages. Designers and coders should offer more simple and lightweight mobile websites with few images to avoid overloading the servers. They should make sure that mobile websites load quickly. As you may presume, things are different for mobile devices (including tablets) even though fixed connections are enough to not cause too many problems for website’ loading time. You can benefit from some testing tools (you will find at the end of this article) in order to see how your web pages work in different platforms.
Quick Tips to Improve Website Speed
1- Minimize HTTP Requests:
2- Enable Compression
Large web pages are generally bigger than 100kb and this result in slower loading times. The best way to speed their load time is to use compression methods and “zipping” them.Most web servers can compress files in Gzip format before sending them for download, either by calling a third-party module or using built-in routines. Most common compression methods are Deflate and Gzip. But if you’re on a common Web host that doesn’t already have server-side compression, this could be tricky. There aren’t many options other than compression to fully optimize the serving of page components. Don’t forget, compressing your content reduces your HTTP response time.
3- Enable Browser Caching
4- Minify Resources
5- Optimize Photos and Images
There are three important factors for the photos and images on your web pages: size, format and the source (src) attribute.Over-sized visuals take longer time to load. It is important to keep your images at correct size. You can use image editing tools to crop your images to the correct size. For example, if the placeholder for your image is 600px wide, resize your image to that dimension instead of uploading 1200px wide image and use coding to resize your image. This will reduce your file size dramatically.
For the format of your photos and images, .jpg and .png is your best option. You can also use .gif format for small graphics. You should avoid using .bmp and .tiff formats on your web pages.
Finally, you should avoid empty image src codes.When there is no source in the codes, the browser makes a request to the directory of the page or to the actual page itself. This can add unnecessary requests.
6- Above-the-fold (ATF) Content
It is generally suggested to use only one CSS stylesheet and avoid any extra CSS files. However, there is one caution you need to consider. You can also improve your performance by dividing your CSS into two parts: a small inline division that styles above-the-fold elements, and an outer part that can be deferred. After that you can set your above-the-fold (top of the page) load faster—even if the rest of the page takes a few seconds to load.
7- Minimize redirects
Another important issue that you should consider is the number of redirects. Redirecting the visitors lead to additional HTTP requests and increase load time. So, try to use minimum number of redirects even though you have an responsive design on your web pages.
8- Use CDN
Content Delivery Network (CDN) is series of servers and Points-of-Presence around the globe, which help in improving the page-load time as well as reduce the download time of the content by bringing it closer to the users. Decreasing your page load time, it is one of the most effective ways to improve your speed.
9- Monitor Your Web Performance
It is important that you monitor your website’s performance on a regular basis. Moreover, when you update any code (especially when you install a new module or plugin on you website) or content on your website you can run some quick test to see the results.
It is also important to set a benchmark when you consider improving your website’s performance.If you don’t have a baseline, you won’t know how far you need to improve your website. There are numerous tools on the internet that you can benefit to test the performance of your website. In the next section, we gathered highly useful web speed tools which will help you to focus on different details of your website’s performance. We suggest you to try them, find the best one to fit your needs and benefit from the results.
5 Free Tools to Test Your Website’s Speed
1. MaxCDN Tools
MaxCDN recently released their performance testing tools which allow you to test the performance of your website at 14different places around the globe. Moreover, it enables you compare performance for two domains, great for testing different environments or seeing how your site does against a competitor. Lastly, you can also use HTTP Speed Test that compares the first and last bytes of two websites.
According to the Ping Test, InstantShift is 93% faster thanks to MaxCDN.
Pingdom website speed test tools enable you to test the load speed of your website and provide feedbacks to make it faster. You can monitor individual requests and files on your website and see what causes poor website performance. From a performance grade to a page analysis, a list of requests to load the page and more, they offer really good information about your page.
This tool tests your web page’s loading time multiple locations around the world using different browsers like IE, Firefox, Safari. It offers has advanced setting options for simulating common Internet connection speeds like DSL and 56K dial up. It also tests content breakdown so that you know what you need to tackle.
4. Google PageSpeed Insights
Google PageSpeed Insights tool provides a wide range of information and tips to boost your website’s performance. You can test your website speed and benefit from the “should fix” and “consider fixing” recommendations. It is a great way to learn what you need to do in order to improve your web speed. You can run see the results for both desktop and mobile platforms.
GTMetrix is a very effective and informative tool to test and monitor your website’s performance. It uses PageSpeed and YSlowtests to grade and provides clear reports to improve in order to decrease your loading time. The site also features tools to monitor your site and track its performance, such as video playback and performance reports.
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