Website Speed Optimization for Faster Conversions

December 12, 2010 | Written by Dusty Dean

Fiberoptic Networking

Few things can be more damaging to your online marketing efforts than a slow, unresponsive website. Your customers won’t convert, your brand will be damaged and worst of all – you’ll lose sales.

A recent survey by the FCC suggests that 68% of US Internet users have a connection speed that is lower than their definition of broadband. The rise in online video consumption, gaming, streaming music and other bandwidth consuming applications compound the problem of slower connections.

Your website is competing with the entire Internet for your customer’s attention. Milliseconds matter today when it comes to page load times and catching your customer’s attention before they leave your website.

Your Web marketing team should consider page load times and conversion processing times as a central part of your Web marketing optimization process.

There’s many layers to speed optimization, from the design, scripting languages to advanced caching techniques. Optimizing for speed requires input from your Web designers, Web developers and your System Administrator.

Speed Performance Testing

It’s important to first understand how to analyze your website’s speed performance and then follow a list of recommended guidelines for improving elements on your website.

The following tools are excellent resources for detecting any page load problems on your website.

  • Page Speed
  • Page Speed is an open-source project started at Google to help developers optimize their web pages by applying web performance best practices. Page Speed is a Firefox add-on integrated with the Firebug web development tool.

  • YSlow
  • YSlow analyzes web pages and suggests ways to improve their performance based on a set of rules for high performance web pages. YSlow is a Firefox add-on integrated with the Firebug web development tool.

  • Pingdom Tools
  • Pingdom Tools offers a set of tools that analyze the time it takes for each element on your website to load and displays the elements in time bars.

  • Customer Surveys
  • Your customers will let you know if your website is too slow. Actively listening to your customers through site-level or page-level survey will help you pinpoint frustrating pain points on your website.

Optimization Methods

There are numerous ways to optimize your website for speed. The following list summarizes some of the most often used methods.

  • HTTP Compression
  • HTTP compression reduces network bandwidth by compressing content transferred from web servers to browsers. HTTP compression uses compression algorithms, such as gzip and deflate, to compress HTML, CSS, JavaScript and other text-based files on the server.

  • Minify
  • Minification is a process that removes unnecessary characters and white space from your JavaScript and CSS code. This helps to make the file sizes smaller which helps improve the speed of transfer.

  • Content Deliver Network (CDN)
  • CDNs mirror content on your website (such as images, video and more) on multiple servers in various locations. A visitor will be served the static files closest to their geographic location. This helps reduce load times and increases redundancy.

  • Database Caching
  • Most dynamic websites today are based on a content management system that makes numerous queries to a database. Frequent queries can be time and resource intensive for your customers and your servers. By implementing a database caching solution you can quickly serve many frequently requested pages on your website as static HTML files.

  • Media Compression
  • Images and video files should be compressed so they offer the smallest file size at the best possible quality. Images are usually compressed into JPG, PNG and GIF formats while video uses the popular H.264 standard for compression.

  • Reduce DNS lookups
  • The Domain Name System (DNS) connects domain names to IP addresses. The browser must wait for DNS to resolve before continuing to download the page components. Therefore, if you reduce the number of host names per page you’ll decrease the number of DNS lookups needed and increase your page load speed.

  • 3rd Party Script Auditing
  • Many websites rely on 3rd party scripts to provide a rich user experience. These may be add-ons like blog commenting systems, social networking integrations or analytics tracking codes. It’s very important to audit these externally loaded scripts and make certain they’re not slowing down your website. A great tool for this is the previously mentioned Pingdom Tools.

Optimizing your website for speedier load times is an exciting iterative process. As always, you should keep your customers in mind and make certain that page load times aren’t impacting your website user experience.

Photo Credit: hpux735 // CC

December 12, 2010 | Written by Dusty Dean

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