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When creating and designing websites it’s easy to become incredibly focussed on the design and the presentation, and how the website functions on a basic level, but not give as much importance to how the website performs in the backend.
Correctly optimising and striving to have an efficiently performing website has a number of benefits for both you and your visitors, from faster load times and reduced hosting costs to increased Google Search rankings.
Think About Your Visitors and Their Platforms
The first port of call in improving or making changes to any website or application is taking into account of who your visitor is. Build a rough but comprehensive snapshot of what your typical user looks like, and work from there.
Factors such as what device they are browsing on, where they browse from, and what content they come to your site looking for should all be reviewed. All of these things help us prioritise the following steps in the process.
Almost all websites you visit on a daily basis feature images and graphics of all sorts of shapes and sizes to illustrate, communicate and shape the messages the site tries to communicate. But images are usually the biggest culprit for sites taking a considerable amount of time to load. Images that are incorrectly optimised, loading from a slow server, or used inappropriately can cause your website to drag, affecting load times and even search engine rankings.
An example of this is including photos taken directly from your digital camera in your latest blog post without properly sizing and optimising the images beforehand. This can add up to 4MB of data per image to your site, which may take several minutes for a mobile user to download your web page.
There are a number of solutions you can employ on your site to ensure images are displayed correctly on your website, from server plugins to size and crop images before they are displayed on your site to tools that strip out unnecessary data and reduce the file size of the image.
Limiting Sizes and Requests
Steps can be taken to reduce the number of requests that have to be made, such as taking out any unnecessary elements, only loading elements on the pages they are required on, and only loading elements as they are needed. You can also reduce the size of the elements by using compression tools that help speed up load times.
Evaluate 3rd Party Addons and Scripts
Many features in the websites we build today rely on 3rd party scripts, addons and plugins in enhance the experience for both the user and the site owner. The likes of Google analytics provide us with super accurate information on our visitors and where they come from, Woopra with essential information in our visitors behaviour on the site, and Zoho for managing CRM and lead acquisition. These services come at a price, and not a financial one.
These technologies use scripts and files to execute their function and gather information on your visitors, which may cause sites to become bloated and sluggish, and in certain cases cause conflicts and errors with other plugins and scripts. Sometimes we have no choice in whether or not these are integrated in our sites, but it is important to consider the impact they have on the website as an ecosystem. To see what scripts are running on your site, try the free Built with Chrome Browser plugin.
Employing CDNs and Leveraging Smart Hosting
Hosting many of the heavier elements of your website such as images and videos on your own server isn’t the most efficient way of hosting them and can increase the load placed on your server and the cost of hosting. One of the options available is hosting your media elements on a Content Delivery Network, or a CDN as it is commonly known. A CDN is an inexpensive server designed specifically to load rich media on your site, an example would be Amazon’s AWS. It also loads resources based on where your visitor is located. For instance if a visitor to your site is based in Dublin, they will load a copy of your files hosted in Ireland for faster load times, similarly if they are in New York, the files will be loaded from an American server.
Enabling and leveraging caching on your website also helps reduce the time it takes to load a page, and the impact the loading of the page has on your server. Caching involves making a quick and easy to access copy of the content and files on your site and storing this copy on your server. These copies have already been generated and computed by your server, so when a new visitor reaches your site, the server doesn’t have to consume as many resources to recompute the page. Caching considerably speeds up the time it takes for a page to load on a site, offering a better experience for the end user.
As you can see there are a number of steps you can take to optimise your website in order to improve page load times, increase search engine rankings and improve your end users experience.
Looking for more information on how to integrate these tips or advice on improving your digital assets why not get in touch with our strategy team today.