CitrusKiwi's Web Design, Internet & Marketing blog

Get hints and tips about web design, SEO, and things internet. We also discuss online security issues, showcase new client websites and offer hints on marketing and networking.

5 wait reducing tips for your website

Although everyone told me I didn't need to lose any weight,I've recently shed a little over 20lbs and feel so much better for it.  The only downside, is I now need to go through my closet and get rid of a bunch of clothes that are waaaay too big for me!  A good downside I think you'd agree though.

Reducing your website's wait

When Google is presented with a search query, it looks at the pages in its index and applies a test that includes over 200 parameters to it in a bid to serve the user a relevant result.  One of those is page load speed.  There's a temptation now to overlook this vital aspect of page "health".  After all, most of our users have a fast internet connection right?  Who uses a 56k dial up modem anymore?  Interestingly, I was speaking to someone just a few weeks ago who does.  They're in a "black" area where no one can get broadband access.

From Google's point of view, a fast loading site is good - a tick - and a slow loading one is bad - an X.  So it's crucial to make sure your pages load quickly.  Here are 5 things you can do to speed up your page load time.  Some of these are technical and require some website skills, and others are simple.

1. Image size.  Every image on the site should be optimized to load quickly.  I recommend using JPG format as it gives the smallest footprint.  Sometimes, where's there's transparency, you can't use JPG and must use either GIF or PNG.  Generally GIF is smaller, but not always.  Where you have a gallery, a larger image is acceptable, but really they shouldn't be bigger than 1 - 1.5Mb.

2. Get fast hosting.  WHERE your site is hosted can impact your load speed, as can the type of plan you have.  I know you can get hosting at many providers for $3-4 per month, but this can come at a speed cost.  This is shared hosting which mean you're piled in with a bunch of other sites on resources that are generally oversold (that's what "Unlimited" means - there's no such thing as unlimited storage or bandwidth).  And, with those cheap plans, you definitely will not be on their premium equipment; it'll be the old stuff.

3. Turn on cache.  Everyone will likely be familiar with the cache that your browser generates and cache in a site is exactly the same thing.  Most components in a site - at least Joomla ones - have the ability to set caching on an individual component basis.  This is important, as turning cache on for some components, even with a short refresh time, can stop the component functioning correctly.

4. Compress Javascript and CSS.  Modern websites make extensive use of these types of files and there are usually many of each.  Bundling them all into one file and then minifying them (striping out all the blank space - like using a compression program like Winzip) helps them load faster.  Having them in one file will also reduce the number of queries the site needs to make to retrieve the info it needs.  There is a downside in this though.  Some components that make up a website will fail if their JS or CSS file is bundled with another so be careful.

5. Use Expires Headers in your .htaccess file.  This piece of code is actually part of the caching setup, but is implemented in a different way.  What it does is tell the visitors browser whether to cache a certain type of resource (an image for example) and for how long.  For example, you can set images to expire in a year, meaning frequent visitors to your site will have those images already stored in the browser's cache which means a faster loading time.

There are things to look out for though, with this tweak.  Regularly changing files should not be included or the visitor will end up seeing old content, not the shiny new piece you just added.  This is very true of e-commerce sites that have constantly changing products.  Like all caching, care needs to be taken to ensure you're not making problems for your visitors.

There are a number of other options available for tweaking your site.  Many great helps can be found by running your site through one of the many site speed pages such as YSlow or Google's PageSpeed tool.

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