We were meeting with a perspective client today and were discussing what impacts website load speed. There’s quite a battle going on on the Internet right now:
- Visitors are demanding rich visual experiences – even on higher-pixel retina displays. This is driving larger images and higher resolutions which are bloating image sizes.
- Search engines are demanding ultra fast pages that have great supporting text. This means valuable bytes are being spent on text, not images.
- Search authority is being driven by remarkable content. Without your content being shared, you limit its ability to create backlinks and citations to your content… driving down organic search.
It’s a balancing act for any company, so let’s walk through how pages load and where the roadblocks might be.
- Infrastructure – Modern infrastructure utilizes fiber for high-speed connectivity, solid-state drives, and high-speed CPUs to run routing equipment, cloud-based web servers, and database servers. By and far, having your site hosted on new equipment in a new facility that has superior connectivity will provide the best results.
- Domain Resolution – When a page is requested, the domain is resolved through a name server. That request is almost instantaneous, but you can always shave a little off the request time by utilizing a managed DNS service.
- Database Optimization – In a modern content management system, it’s imperative that your database be optimized to increase the time it takes to query and respond with data on uncached visits. It’s also a good practice to host the database on a different server from your web server but in the same environment.
- Load Balancing – Technology exists to deploy multiple servers to share the load of visitors across them rather than just putting the load all on one server. This technology offers the opportunity to continue to add more servers to your pool as demand continues to grow… sometimes in real-time.
- Page Requests – The path after the domain queries your content management system or commerce system to get the content. Your database indexing and hardware can impact the speed at which the content is retrieved.
- Page Caching – Most high-performant web servers offer the ability to bypass the request to the database and serve content from a cache.
- Header Requests – Within the content of a page, there are typically resources like scripts and style sheets that are requested before the page is loaded in the browser. Too many resources can drive up your page load times.
- Page Elements – Browsers typically make requests back to the same server one at a time. If there are multiple domains or subdomains, elements can be requested simultaneously. Some companies deploy multiple subdomains for scripts, style sheets, and media to leverage the way browsers make those requests. If you’re loading multiple scripts or stylesheets, combining them into the fewest number of files will improve performance as well.
- Content Delivery Network – Believe it or not, geography plays a role in the time it takes to load your site. If you’re close to your server, it’s quick. If you’re across a continent, it’s slower. A CDN can download your images regionally and serve them faster to your audience.
- Compression – Web servers that incorporate gzip compression of web resources, images that are compressed, scripts and CSS that are minified to remove extraneous space can all have a dramatic improvement in website load speed.
- Lazy Loading – Why load images if the element isn’t actually visible on a page? If you notice on our site, as you scroll down the page the images are loaded once they need to become visible rather than all at once. Lazy loading can speed up your website load speed significantly.
- Asynchronous Loading – Not everything has to be loaded immediately on a page. Elements like social sharing buttons, for example, can be incredibly slow and taxing on a browser. Tag Management Services can assist you in loading resources after the page is complete rather than slowing it down.
- Mobile Optimization – Responsive design is, rightly, all the rage right now to provide consistent user experiences regardless of your device’s viewport. But it also may be slowing down your mobile viewing – where a growing percentage of visitors are arriving.
- Video Formats – If you’re including video backgrounds into your site, you’ll need to ensure they’re optimized and compressed for each browser. A slow-loading video can drag down a site’s load time and frustrate your visitors.
Here’s a newly released infographic from Instart Logic on how websites have become fatter, and the impact.