Initially, speeding up the time your website took to load was meant to create a great experience for visitors. In a world where competition for online eyeballs is intense and visitors have little time or patience to wait a couple of minutes, websites that load quickly have a distinct advantage.

But loading speed took on even greater significance from 2010 when Google announced it would include it in its search results ranking algorithm. A fast web site is now much more important than it ever was. Here are a variety of ways you can speed up your site.

how to speed up your site

1. Image Optimization

One of the first things you should look at when evaluating your site’s speed is the size of images. Think about product photos you take for use on your site. An original image straight from your camera is bound to be several MBs in size. This may not seem that large. But think about an ecommerce site that has dozens of product photos on each page.

Images are a necessity and they communicate in a faster and more effective way than text. Yet, such large files will only slow down your site. Reducing their size can have an enormous impact on speed. In one study, reducing the size of image files by 95 percent saw a 70 percent improvement in page load speed.

Reducing image size may be achieved through compression, cropping, changing the file type or any combination of the three.

2. Browser Caching

Browser caching is where your site visitor’s browser stores key resources of your website including CSS files, JavaScript files and images. That way, the files don’t have to be downloaded each time the visitor accesses your site. This in turn means your pages load faster.

Browser caching will be most effective for repeat visitors to the site but is still important to implement if you want to get your site to load quickly. Of course, files shouldn’t be stored on the client’s end indefinitely. If your site isn’t updated too frequently, you can set cache expiry to about 10 days. For sites that see more regular updates, a shorter expiry window is more appropriate.

3. Minimize Loading External Resources

External resources are a major burden to large media websites but can affect small websites too especially those dependent on ad networks like Google AdSense. The problem with embedding third party code on your site is that it’s likely to load additional files and dependencies in order to work.

In some cases, these external code snippets can decrease page load speed by as much as 100 percent. The easiest way to prevent this is to minimize the use of and reliance on third party scripts. For example, instead of signing up with multiple ad networks, you can consolidate your ads to one or two networks.

4. Gzip Compression

Gzip is a means of loading a website in a compressed format that is then decompressed on the client end for browser reading. This reduces the amount of bandwidth your site takes up thereby speeding up the time needed to load a page.

You can usually enable Gzip compression in the same way you do browser caching. Gzip is not the only command that can load pages faster. Take a look at this linux commands cheat sheet by Loggly for ideas on what other instructions you could use.

5. Minimize HTTP Requests

Much of a webpage’s load time goes toward downloading the different elements of the page such as images, scripts and stylesheets. A HTTP request must be made for every element which means the more components your page has, the longer it is likely to take to load.

Reducing your HTTP requests starts with knowing how many requests the page currently makes (you can use Google Chrome’s Developer Tools for that). Examine what elements are truly needed and those you can do without.

A fast website is not just a good to have. It is pivotal for your site’s success. Yet, it doesn’t happen by accident. By taking these deliberate steps, you will have the right foundation for your website to succeed.

About the author

Alex Roman

Independent graphic artist and architect based in Bucharest. I really love what i do!

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