speed

Internet today is very fast paced: users expect instantaneous results when they know what they are looking for.

According to Akamai, if a webpage takes longer than 4 seconds to load, 75% of the visitors would not even return to the site again.

So, three quarters of all visitors expect a website to load within 4 seconds, and that was in 2006!

Other research conducted by Fiona Fui-Hoon Nah, suggests that the wait time is no more than 2 seconds!

What does this mean for you as a website owner? The answer is pretty straightforward. You need to optimize your websites loading time, or else you will lose visitors.

So, now that we know that we need to deliver our website as quick as possible, how do we go about doing so?

Minify Your Scripts and CSS Files

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One way to speed up your site is to reduce the number of HTTP Requests, and to cut down on overall filesize.

Minify is a free PHP5 app that can really help you out in these areas. If you install this on your server it will combine all of your CSS files and deliver them as a single file. It will also do the same with your Javascript files.

On top of that, it also removes unnecessary whitespace and comments before delivering those files, which can drastically cut down on the overall filesize.

Minify also uses GZIP, which compresses your files before delivering them to your end user. Again, this will cut down on the overall filesize.

The best part about Minify is that it is free, Open Source Software.

You can download it from Minify on Google Code and you can find installation instructions within the Documentation. If you are running a WordPress site, there are also a couple plugins that make the install even easier. Check out WP Minify and Better WordPress Minify for more information.

Optimize Your Images

For a lot of websites, some of the largest files that are delivered are image files.

Don't worry, you don't have to remove all of your graphics, but there are ways to optimize them.

If you are exporting your images from Photoshop, make sure you select Save For Web.

Images that have a wide range of color and detail, such as photographs should be saved as JPG's.

Experiment with the Quality Slider to find a good balance between filesize and appearance of the image.

As for images that don't contain such a wide spectrum of colors, try saving these as GIF's or PNG's.

In the past people have shyed away from using PNG's, but now that they are supported in all modern browsers you can safely use them.

Also, be sure to save images at the actual size you will be using them. Don't save a larger image, and then scale it down using HTML.

Take Control of Caching

If you have a website that dynamically generates your pages, you should look into caching a static version of the pages and database queries. That way your content doesn't need to be dynamically created each time a user loads up your site.

If you use WordPress, there are several Caching plugins out there that can do the trick for you. Two plugins that I would recommend would be WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache. Note: You should only use one of these plugins, not both.

Take Advantage of Google's Libraries API

If you are using a common javascript framework, such as jQuery, instead of hosting it locally you should use the version hosted by Google.

Google offers several hosted libraries that you are free to use. Not only are these delivered from Google's highspeed servers, but there is also a good chance that a website visitor already has the script cached locally. If they do, then it won't need to be downloaded again.

Head on over to Google Libraries API and see if you can take advantage of this great service. If you are running WordPress, check out an article that I wrote earlier on How To Use Google Hosted jQuery In Your WordPress Theme.

Conclusion

The internet is an ever growing, ever improving place. With Internet Users demanding faster and faster speeds, we know that we need to create our websites to meet their demands and expectations. The things that I have outlined in this article should help you get on the right track in regards to website speed performance.

As always, if you have any questions or want to share your opinion, please feel free to do so by leaving a comment!

Ryan Cowles

Ryan Cowles is a WordPress / Front End Developer living in Los Angeles, California. Along with a passion for building creative websites, he also enjoys photography, design, travel and the great outdoors. You can view his personal website by visiting http://ryanscowles.com. To see what he has been up to lately, check out his blog at Metacom Creative.

Ryan S. Cowles

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