Slow website? Five ways to speed it up
Develop | Posted May 03, 2010

WatchThe Web has definitely gone real-time, and users expect near instant gratification for most of their online experiences. No matter whose data you look at, providing a fast and reliable website will positively impact your business in terms of conversions, page views, user satisfaction, and most recently, Google search rankings.

While there are many things that can impact website speed and performance and influence the user experience, the tips below represent some tried and true ways to begin to improve.

1. Put those blocking JavaScripts at the bottom of the page. As much as organizations are getting pretty savvy about Web performance and the user experience, it never ceases to amaze me how significant online brands sometimes place their visitor tracking scripts on the page before the significant content loads. In my own experiences, I have noticed two or three second (or longer) delays while waiting for the visitor tracking vendor to complete the tracking request.

2. Improve loading time of your key page content. Today's websites are delivering more and richer content than ever before. As the operators of our websites and the stewards of performance and the user experience, we must systematically implement methods to deliver that rich content while still delivering a great end-user experience. Here are a few best practices:

  • Minimize graphic page assets in general to make them as small as possible while maintaining the required image fidelity.
  • Enable content compression in your Web server to minimize data transfer times on the Internet pipes.
  • Set very far-in-the-future Expires dates for static content, so repeat visitors are not transferring the same content over and over.
  • Consider utilizing a Content Distribution Network (CDN) for large dynamic content.

3. Put style sheets at the top of the page content. The formatting of most of today's Web pages is applied using styles saved in a CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Many modern Web pages look very poor or completely unreadable before CSS styles are applied. By loading CSS first, the page can be rendered partially and correctly as the rest of the page resources are loaded.

4. Minimize the number of HTTP requests. A significant portion of the time it takes to load a Web page is the time spent downloading all the resources of the page -- the HTML, CSS files, JavaScript, images, etc. By reducing the number of individual resource requests, you can significantly speed up the page load time. One great example of this is to use CSS sprites, which basically are a larger image that contains, say, all of the buttons used on the page. With CSS sprites, all buttons are transferred to the browser with one HTTP request, rather than many.

5. Consider deploying Web acceleration hardware. For large-scale sites, it might make sense to deploy Web acceleration hardware like Crescendo Networks' Application Delivery Controller (ADC), which can improve the user experience by compressing content, TCP, SSL offloading, and acceleration, as well as enhancing security by providing better protection against Denial of Service attacks.


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