Performance Matters: Website Optimization Strategies

By Josh Hall, Development Manager

In this article, learn:

  • What does website performance optimization mean?
  • Why is website optimization and performance so important?
  • What are some ways to improve website performance?

What Is Website Performance Optimization?

We live in a world where speed is everything. We expect quick-time delivery, instant entertainment streaming, pizza in under 30, and more. The rate that something is accomplished can make or break your day. So when someone is on your website, you want the user to have the best experience possible based on your site’s speed and efficiency. 

Website performance optimization monitors and analyzes the efficiency of your website and identifies ways to improve it in terms of speed, features, implementations, design, SEO, and digital marketing. By running a website performance optimization, you can pinpoint where your website is lacking and take measures to improve it for the best user experience (UX). 

Why Is Website Performance Important? 

Sure, this seems obvious, but have you really thought about why your site’s performance matters? Here are three factors to consider: 

1. High speed ensures an optimal user experience.

The first impressions of your website and experiences are vital in keeping your business reputable, solidifying your brand, keeping users engaged, and increasing conversions. 

When clicking on a website for the first time, customers expect it to load quickly (within three seconds to be exact). And search engines, like the almighty Google, take speed into account when determining search rankings. Slow site speed will definitely knock you down a peg or two – or more.

2. Better website performance can reduce your costs.

Most hosting facilities charge based on bandwidth and storage usage. Many optimal performance practices will save you money by reducing your storage costs and bandwidth usage significantly. 

3. Mobile traffic will soon outnumber desktop traffic.

Every day more and more users are accessing websites with mobile phones and tablets. Mobile users are even more sensitive to poor page loading and will abandon slow sites much quicker than desktop users. If you ignore this segment of users, you risk losing a lot of your market – and a lot of potential profit.

Website Optimization Strategies & Tips

Now, while knowing is half the battle – knowledge without action won’t do you any good. So, here are some best practices to help improve your webpage load time:

1. Reduce what you send to the browser. 

Reducing the amount to data transferred to the browser should be your number one priority when it comes to reducing page load. This can be accomplished by compressing and optimizing images and always using scaled-to-size images. Remove unused CSS or JavaScript, and then minimize your CSS and JavaScript. 

Finally, enable a server-side compression-like GZip. The most modern browsers support this data compression, and it will significantly reduce the amount of data passed from the server to the client browser.

2. Optimize what you send to the browser. 

Remove all JavaScript errors and 404 errors that occur on the page. These requests can cause long delays and often cause browsers to crash. 

Also, use efficient CSS selectors. A poor-performing selector that has to search the entire DOM object can significantly slow down your load time. Remove any unnecessary markup, avoid CSS expressions and imports, and put your CSS declarations in the document header. 

Look for opportunities to condense and combine CSS files and JavaScript files. You should also defer parsing JavaScript on page load, which is extremely helpful for mobile devices.

3. Let the browser cache resources for you. 

Take full advantage of browser caching. It does not cost you anything, and it significantly reduces the number of requests for static resources from your server. This alone will reduce your server load and improve user experience. 

Make sure you read Google’s Page Speed section about browser caching best practices to understand this fully.

4. Implement Data Caching from the server-side. 

One often-overlooked caching option is data and server-side caching. Content provided from the data cache is usually stored in memory on the server, so the server can access and deliver the data faster, rather than making a round trip to the DB. 

From the application side, you can choose which page parts can be cached on the server. For example, headers and footers rarely change and can be cached from the server-side using techniques like output caching. Dynamic content delivered from a database should also be cached when possible. Make sure to implement data caching for the most requested areas of your site!

5. Reduce DNS lookups and redirects. 

Reduce the number of unique domain requests as much as possible. This will reduce the number of DNS lookups, which can be costly in the loading process. 

Also, ensure that your DNS Time to Live (TTL) are not too low because this forces some browsers to do more frequent and unnecessary DNS lookups. 

Finally, reduce or eliminate unnecessary redirects.

There are many different platforms and frameworks available, but these concepts are the same across all of them, whether it’s Linux/PHP or Windows/.NET, or some other framework. There are also excellent development tools to manage site performance, such as Firebug, Chrome, etc. 

I find the Firefox – Fire Bug development tool with the Google Page Speed Plugin – the most valuable tool in this process. Together, these two tools will allow you to see every downloaded resource and quickly identify 404 and JavaScript errors. You can view the headers to see if the resources are compressed and how long it takes to download each. 

Your target goal should be three seconds or less for page load time before you turn on browser caching. Start with the homepage and other high-traffic entry pages; then, as time permits, hit the other pages.

What We Do At Ironistic for Your Website 

Remember, you want your website’s performance to be more like Usain Bolt and less like the lines at the DMV. At Ironistic, all of our website hosting and maintenance clients undergo audits that focus on this key feature. 

We carefully comb through your website to review your site’s speed, optimization strategies, usability, design, security, and more. If you are interested in these services, check out Ironistic’s web hosting and support section.

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