Website Response Times: why to fine tune you site’s speed
Just about everything in the world can be fine tuned to reach its full potential. You can fine tune settings in your computer BIOS to make it run faster, fine tune car engines to make it run more efficiently and gain extra horsepower, fine tune your tv for the best quality and lowest power usage, and you can fine tune the bone alignment in your body to let your body work the way it’s supposed to.
Your website is no exception! There are many factors in having a successful website including great content, readable color schemes, awesome design, search engine optimization and load time. First impressions are very important on a website and most visitors will leave within the first 3-5 seconds if they do not see anything interesting. If a user spends those 3-5 seconds waiting for your website to load, chances are they will leave before they even get to see anything. We know based on THIS study that a 10 second wait for anything on your site will result in a lost visitor.
Fine tuning is the act of improving or optimizing an existing feature or component. For a website there are many areas that can typically be optimized. These include the database, the website code, the images and the physical server.
It can be argued that one of the most important parts of a database driven website is the database. There are many types of databases one can use depending on the language, server and needs. They can all can be optimized and tuned. Most of the database tuning and planning should be done from the beginning and includes proper column structures, indexing and keys. Once the database is up and running the next step would be to set up database caching.
Sprites are the minification solution to image files. With sprites we combine multiple images into one single image. This works great with smaller images such as icons. Typically sprite images are a little larger than the total size of the smaller images, but it is still faster because the browser only needs to make one connection instead of multiple connections. The browser will then use CSS to display the correct part of the image in the page so the user will never know they are actually looking at a small portion of a larger image.
Caching is the act of storing data for later use. In web development we can cache anything that is dynamic or an object that is used lot. Typically this would be a database query such as total members in a membership based website, total posts in a blog based website or products and categories in an eCommerce store. The goal is to cache that information so we do not need to make new database queries with the same results every page load. This is taxing on the server and makes a website load faster. With caching we can use 30-70% less on server RAM and CPU on every page load and load each page significantly faster.
The .htaccess file is a directory-level configuration file supported by several web servers, that allows for decentralized management of web server configuration. It has many benefits and settings, some of those include making your website load a lot faster. Every server has different configuration so not all of the options might be available in yours. There are several options that can be set including mod_expires, mod_deflate, ETags, and gzip. Without getting too technical with each setting, these options will make the files on the site load faster and cache on the browser better.
Putting it all Together
Every step mentioned above has it’s own individual benefit and can make your site load faster and more efficiently in their own way. Combining them all makes each page load even faster and will make a HUGE impact on the load time of your website which will improve the users experience and will make the search engines happier.