Never, in the history if the internet and eCommerce, has it been more important than right now to have a website that loads quickly. Gone are the days of wonder and awe at what might be on the next page. Back then, every page was a mystery to behold. Surfers and shoppers alike would sit and watch the slow loading page unfold before their eyes with anticipation. Today, if your website does not open within a few seconds, your potential visitor will move on to one that will and the odds of them returning are slim to none at all. We have been desensitized because we have seen it all before. If you have a big, bulky eCommerce website that loads like a lumbering dinosaur, you may want to think about finding ways to increase load speed and then capture your visitor with the kind of content that keeps them there. [custom_frame_left] [/custom_frame_left]
Load Time Battle Starts With Design
If anyone ever tells you that in order to speed up load time, you must sacrifice some of the precious content on your page, think again. Your home page is the first thing a visitor sees when they find your website. It is by far the most important page you have because this is the page that will convince your visitor to stay and see what you have to offer. If you are serious about sales or providing services to as many people as is humanly possible, your homepage will also be where conversion begins. Rather than dropping images or video for speed, take a long look at the page design. It is here that your battle for load time begins.
Reduce Requests With Image Mapping
All of the components on your home page represent http requests for download, including the style sheets, images, flash, and any content on the page. Each item that makes a request to load increases the load time of the page. Rather than dumping components, try to simplify the design of the page upon which they rest to reduce the number of http requests. One way to do this is in mapping your images so that they run in a continuous line. In mapping the images together, you get one http request for all of your images rather than one http download request for each image on the page. There are other, more complicated ways of getting the same results, including inline imaging and CSS sprites. These types of design can get you load time without sacrificing important product images or conversion rich content. The same can be done with scripts by combining files, but this process is rarely done due to its complicated and tedious nature; however, it is worth looking into if you feel that everything on your slow loading homepage is vital to its effectiveness. Every millisecond that you can shave from your load time works for you in keeping a visitor on your website. People have become fickle in a world where they can quickly get a piping hot cheeseburger without even getting out of their automobile.
Eliminate Redundancy in Content Intent
Before you even begin to work on the design, it may be time to take a good long look at the images and script that you plan to use. Is everything there absolutely essential to what you feel you need to accomplish? If you have content that is doing the same job twice, or has no reason other than personal preference to be there, now is the time to adjust your priorities. Using .jpg images, image mapping, and reducing unnecessary style sheets are all effective tactics to improve this. When you can honestly say that every image, flash video, and body of script has a specific function designed to work together to illicit a specific response without redundancy, then you are on your way. There are tools at your disposal that can help with the tasks involving page speed optimization. There are tools designed to change images into the optimal formats and create zip files that can be sent and downloaded faster. You can find these on the internet and many of them are free to use. You can also hire a web consultant to help you identify anything that needs to be done to increase the loading speed of your website.
Think like a Search Engine When it comes to HTML
We all like things that look nice and neat. It is in our nature to want our desks orderly, our websites pretty, and our html clean and crisp. Let’s face it, confusing html clumped together makes an ugly mess and it hurts the eyes to look at. It is hard to edit html that runs in a continuous string. What many of us do not realize on a conscious level is that the neater it looks with all of the clean, easy to edit spaces, the longer it takes to load. We have to learn to think like a search engine. When we write a page of html, it looks great but the search engine does not care either way. All it knows is that it is functional. If we take those clean spaces out, we can turn that full page of pretty html into half a page. While ugly and messy looking, this reduces the size of the file and thus decreases the time it takes to load. The search engine reads it as functional html regardless of whether it has spaces or comes in long messy-looking strings of code. Using cache plug-ins in WordPress will help to minimize the file even further and shave valuable time off the page load.
Files Download over Distance Faster When Compressed
Compressing Servers and Decompressing Browsers Converse to Save You Time
When both the browser and server are on the same compression page, they talk to each other by sending messages in HTTP headers. If they agree, everything goes smoothly and they cooperate by compressing and then decompressing the content on either end of the transfer. Browser: “Hey, Mr. Server…, if you have any, I would love to receive some content that is encoded for a change. What do you say? Give a server a break and let’s get this done quickly.” Server: “You are in luck, my compatible friend. I just happen to have some Gzipped content right here. Heads up!” In this exchange, the browser requests encoded content. The server answers with the correct response letting the browser know how the content is compressed and in what size. Then it compresses and sends the compact files across to the browser, which quickly downloads the smaller files before decompressing and displaying them on the page. The catch is that not all browsers work this way, even though they say that they can. The smart webmaster who wants his or her website viewed quickly on all browsers will obtain programs like Gzip, PipeBoost, HTTPZip, or other configurable compressors to ensure a smooth transition every time.
Content Location and Content Delivery Count towards Load Time
Where you place your content on the page could be the difference between a fast load and a slow one. For instance, if you place all of the cascading style sheets (CSS) at the top of the page, the pages seem to load much faster than if the progress slowed towards the bottom. All of the script that is not in document .write form should be moved to the bottom to prevent them from interfering with parallel downloads. Scripts block the browser from starting a new download. Remember, CSS are up and scripts are down. Another way to speed delivery time is to send your content via a content delivery network, or CDN. With up to 90% of page load speed being trapped in downloading content to the browser, the faster it can make the trip the better. [custom_frame_left] [/custom_frame_left]
The Dance and Music of Time Saving Tactics
These and other small tricks of the trade can reduce your page loading time dramatically when added all together. One or two of these time saving tricks might make a little difference here and there, but when they are allowed to dance together in a ballet of graceful transitioning from design to compression, transference to download, and decompression to page, the loading of your website becomes a seamless symphony of time saving tactics that keep visitors happy and puts traffic on your website. Just remember that when it comes to losing load time, design should be the first place you look to improve it. It is worth it in order to keep what the customers and the search engines want to see most on a content-rich website.