The success of any website depends on the number of visitors. Loading speed is one of the important aspects that can turn people away, if your webpages take too long to load. This article explains some effective methods to build a faster-loading website.
Speed is king in the online world. Web audiences despise sluggish performance and hence, pages that take too long to load can cost you thousands of dollars. The quicker your webpage loads, the more effective it will be.
Why Speed is Crucial
The speed of websites is measured in milliseconds. Studies indicate that most customers will navigate away from a page that takes more than three to five seconds to load. Even worse, visitors who navigate away from slow eCommerce websites are unlikely to return for future purchases. In contrast, website operators who improved their site’s performance have experienced phenomenal revenue increase. For instance, Amazon gained a 1% revenue increase for every 100 milliseconds it shaved off its webpage loading time. The fastest 10% of websites get an average of 50% more viewers than the next 10%. If your website needs help, some hints for web performance optimization are outlined below.
Caching and Scalability
Browser cache saves certain portions of your website onto the viewer’s computer to facilitate faster loading as the viewer moves on to other pages. You do not want to cache your whole website; however, you should cache areas such as the menus, sidebars, footer, and header. Since these areas must be loaded regardless of where the visitor navigates within your site, caching them allows pages to load much quicker.
When web developers create huge websites capable of accommodating millions of daily visitors, they must pay close attention to overall system scalability. As a general concept, scalability involves handling multiple parameters. These include the number of transactions capable of being processed, volume of extra traffic capable of being handled, and maximum storage capacity. If you anticipate that your site will become very popular, think about upgrading to a high-performance server and DNS capable of handling heavier loads and more zones.
CSS sprites combine all images into a single image to minimize the number of HTTP requests, which will increase the loading speed of the website. In this technique, a background image that is as wide as your widest image should be created. All the images should be placed one after the other with one pixel space between two images over the background image, and then “background position” or “background image” should be activated to display the desired sections of the single image created.
For example, notice that the collection of social media icons below is just one image.
Geeky Back-end Tips
Systems such as Apache allow server administrators to produce the fastest possible speed via advanced PHP/server configuration, caching, and HTTP protocols. Improving the cache is the best means of speeding up an Apache server. If you run a WordPress website, for instance, you can use a plugin, such as WP Super Cache. If you are a “web geek,” go directly into the back-end and manually configure the cache for optimal use.
Many experienced web developers recommend Nginx. It works in a similar fashion to Apache, except it uses fewer server resources and is much faster. Although most websites still use Apache (like this one), Nginx is quickly becoming more popular due to its capability to handle multiple server requests with little or no waiting time.
Databases grow rapidly to accommodate increasing amounts of data. To ensure that your MySQL database responds at maximum speed, use indices and partitions to limit the amount of data that the engine must sort through to generate results. Indexing is the most efficient means of speeding up a MySQL database, without which the entire database must be scanned to retrieve the results for any query.
Images give aesthetic appeal to the websites, but they may also severely reduce the loading speed. Compression and Resizing of images greatly reduce the loading time for webpages. Compress images after modifying them through Photoshop, to scale perfectly to your website specifications. This eliminates the need for your server to re-size images. Convert all of your images to suitable format to match overall website quality with minimum size. If you use WordPress and your site already has several hundred images, use a plugin such as Google Page Speed Insights for WordPress to optimize your local files before uploading them to the server.
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) store content in multiple locations that are in close geographic proximity to your end-users. If a user is in the USA, loading a copy of your site stored on a server based in the USA will be much faster than having to fetch data from an Asian or European server. In order to utilize a CDN, you must sign up with a provider who offers the service. For example, check out Amazon Cloudfront.
With a growing number of companies using mobile devices to conduct business online, it is vital that your website detect which device is used. For instance, a user who views a site via a smartphone can benefit from much faster loading speed if the site detects the device, and optimizes the imagery and Flash scripts accordingly. The latest trend is the responsive web design, which assures your website’s visibility on all devices, such as smart phones, tablets, and personal computers.
The simple adjustments discussed here can slash your website’s loading time by more than half. The faster loading websites can promise more traffic and hence, more income. Since Google also assigns higher search engine rankings to faster-loading websites, it is clear that having a website that loads quickly is a crucial factor in online business success.