Posted on Jul 13, 2016 by Callum Taylor
Web performance optimisation, or WPO, is a term that relates to the various techniques IT specialists use in order to increase the speed in which websites are downloaded and displayed on a user’s web browser.
You may be thinking, “what a waste of time – most pages load quickly enough, and what difference is a few seconds going to make?” Well, honestly, you’d be surprised. And, more often than not, we’re talking milliseconds rather than seconds.
A content delivery network improves website delivery time by caching content through a globally distributed network of servers. A good content delivery service will save bandwidth, boost performance, and reduce hosting costs. A CDN is a service which saves website elements like media, design elements, stylesheets and scripts across its global network. Since users’ web browser retrieve the cached data from a server nearest their physical location, the latency is reduced and pages load faster. Modern CDNs, like Incapsula, also leverage the platform to provide additional security and high availability services, important to e-commerce websites and other online businesses.
With so many websites now live (nearly a billion), it’s imperative that you choose a good web hosting service. Many providers are willing to compromise on quality and offer a low cost service, because of the stiff competition. Even so, key to maintaining a high-performance website is opting for a reputable provider, such as DreamHost and HostGator.
Image compression is a simple yet effective way to speed up your site and save bandwidth. Images make up a big part of web traffic, so you need to find a balance between good size and adequate quality without compromising loading times. Image compression makes this easier, and can be done online for free (this article lists some of the best tools).
Transferring web elements over a network takes time and costs money in the form of bandwidth consumption. Caching basically stores certain pieces of data on your visitor’s computer so that, they won’t have to download content in subsequent visits. The key here is in finding a good cache expiry value, to ensure a good balance between freshness of the content and loading speed. Varnish is a high-profile tool that helps websites optimize caching to improve loading speed.
Plugins are additional pieces of code that you can add to your website to allow, well, almost any functionality you can think of. The problem is that installing a plug-in on your site will inevitably have an impact on loading time, especially if it involves additional processing in the back-end. But using tools such as Plugin Organizer (which is available for WordPress), you can specify the order plug-ins load, and you can also select which plugins are active for each specific page or post. This means that plugins will only be loaded when necessary, improving loading speeds in the process.
Each of these five tips alone can make your website load faster. Combined, they can drastically speed up your site’s loading time. In a world when visitors can be put off (or worse, angered) by a wait of a mere second, it’s important that businesses do everything they can to keep their sites fast and efficient.
Are you worried about your website’s loading time? Have you done anything to speed it up? If so, what have you found that works? Let us know.