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10 Quick Ways to Optimize Page Load Time

· Web Dev Zone

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Many studies have found a direct correlation between page speed and visitor retention, bounce rate, and revenues. Further, Google is also using page speed as a ranking factor in its algorithm. So your website’s page load time is critical to its success. A good way to test your browser speed from a visitor’s perspective is to clear your browser cache and then load the page.

A page load time of less than 2 seconds is considered excellent and that of up to 4 seconds is acceptable. But a page load time of more than 5 seconds will adversely affect not just the search engine rankings of your website but also the experience of your visitors.

Here are 10 quick ways to increase site performance:

1.  Optimize Images

Images are important for grabbing visitors’ attention.  But every image that you add to a page has to be downloaded by visitors from your server to their computer. This increases page loading time, which can frustrate visitors and worse may even make them leave your website. This makes it necessary for you to optimize images for your website.

Oversized images can take longer to load, so it’s important you keep your images as small as possible. Use image editing tools such as Photoshop to remove image comments, reduce color depth and to crop images to the correct size.

2.  Eliminate Unnecessary Plugins

An often overlooked speed concern is the number of plugins installed on a website. The huge number of free plugins that are available today makes it enticing for web developers to add more than required. Each plugin you install will require server processing, thereby increasing the page load time. So deactivate and delete unnecessary plugins.

While some plugins are a must for a website, such as social share plugins, using a CMS with in-built social plugins is a better alternative to installing them separately.

3.  Reduce DNS lookups

Minimizing Domain Name System (DNS) lookups is a quick step a web developer can take to improve webpage speed. DNS lookups take long to return the IP address for a hostname. The browser cannot do anything until the lookup is complete. Multiple hostnames can be used for various web elements such as URL, images, script files, style sheets, flash elements, etc. A webpage with feature-rich web elements often uses more DNS lookups, thus increasing the page load time.

Reducing the number of unique hostnames will reduce the number of parallel downloads and speed up your website.

4.  Minimize Redirects

Redirects create additional HTTP requests and increase load time. However, sometimes redirects are unavoidable such as when connecting different parts of a site together, reserving multiple domains or moving from a dead page to a new page.

Redirects add latency so avoid using them wherever you can. Check for any broken links and fix them immediately.

5.  Use Content Delivery Network (CDN)

It is difficult for a server to handle high amounts of traffic, which ultimately slows down the website. A CDN, however, can help you beat this problem and speed up.

A CDN is a high-performance network of servers located at various locations across the globe that replicate the static assets of your website and serve them to visitors in the most efficient way.

6.  Place CSS at the Top and JavaScript at the Bottom of the Page

Adding your CSS files to the top of the page prohibits progressive rendering, saving resources that browsers would otherwise use to load and redraw elements of your pages.

JavaScript is used for functionality and validation.  Adding JavaScript to the bottom prevents your pages from waiting on full code execution before loading – leading to a faster browsing experience for your visitors.

These are some of the ways to reduce page load time and improve conversions. There are certain situations that would require a JavaScript to be loaded at the top of the page (such as some third party tracking scripts).

7.  Leverage Browser Caching

Browser caching is a feature that allows the browsers of your visitors to store copies of your site’s individual pages. In case of returning visitors this helps the browsers pull up the content from within their cache instead of having to reload the pages. This saves on sending HTTP requests to the server and makes loading quicker. Moreover, by optimizing the caching system of your website you also tend to reduce the bandwidth and hosting costs on your site.

8.  Combine Images into CSS Sprites

Image-heavy websites take long to load. One solution to this problem is to combine the multiple images into fewer output files, which will reduce latency. Using CSS Sprites you can combine images into few files. This reduces the number of round-trips and delays in downloading other resources, thus increasing the site speed.

9.  Minification of CSS and JavaScript

Minification is the process of removing unused characters from the code such as tab, space, additional comma, line break, code comments, etc. to help reduce its size and the subsequent loading time of the webpage. It is extremely important, however, to keep the original versions of your scripts and style sheets for the developers in case of updating or modifying the code.

10.  Enable Compression

Compressing your website pages on a server is a great way to improve your site speed. You can do this with gzip compression. Gzip is a tool which reduces the size of html files, CSS, JS etc. that are being sent to your visitors. The compressed file reduces HTTP response time. According to Yahoo, this can reduce download time by about 70%. And since 90% of today’s Internet traffic travels through browsers that support gzip, it’s a great option for speeding up your site.

Optimizing your website is critical for keeping both your visitors and search engines happy. Use the above mentioned 10 ways to improve your site performance.

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