Website Performance Tuning: Making Your Site Faster

September 30, 2015

Blog

Website speed is a metric that every website owner should be concerned about. Way back in 2010, Google even began using site speed as a metric for its search ranking algorithm. Huge businesses exist solely to speed up customer websites in the form of a CDN (Content Delivery Network). Pingdom (a commercial website monitoring platform) and Google also have tests that webmasters can run to analyze the speed of a website.

Clearly, the speed of a website is important! In this blog post, I write about some of the ways you can increase the speed of your website.

1. Optimize your images
One of the easiest things you can do is to reduce the size of your images so that they load more quickly each time a visitor accesses your website. First, make sure that the dimensions of your images are reasonable. For example, chances are, there’s no reason why you should upload an image that is over 500 pixels wide. Ideally, your images should be sized appropriately before uploading them to your website, instead of resized through the website code.

Second, use an open source program like OptiPNG or ImageOptim to losslessly compress your images further before you upload them to the server.

2. Minify your code
Minifying the code on your website removes all of the white space (empty lines, tabs, and unnecessary spaces) that is in the HTML, JavaScript and CSS code. This is more easily done if you have a static website.

This may not sound like it would be very helpful, but it is! All of that white space does increase the size of your files, and anything that you can do to decrease the size of your files on your website is a great step in the right direction.

It’s also possible to minify source code on a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress and Drupal using plugins that minify the code for you.

3. Cache, cache, cache
Caching a website saves it to the server’s memory or another part of the server that allows the website to be served more quickly to its visitors. If your website is built on a CMS, then caching can be especially helpful.

There are different ways to cache a website. Content Management Systems like WordPress and Drupal have plugins that will do some basic caching on the website itself. For example, here at Develop CENTS, we use WordFence on this and several other WordPress websites that we manage, which doubles as a security plugin and helps improve the performance of WordPress sites. If your organization’s website is on a shared hosting platform, then this is the best option.

If you have a dedicated server or a Virtual Private Server, then more advanced caching methods may be worth considering, such as optimizing memcache for your website or even implementing a reverse proxy server such as Varnish.

4. Get better hosting
In an earlier blog post, I wrote about the different types of web hosting options, and why the cheapest option isn’t always the best option. Let’s face it: You get what you pay for. When a website is on a shared server with possibly dozens or even hundreds of other websites, your website is competing for, and sharing, server resources (memory, and CPU utilization) with all of those other websites.

5. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN is a good choice for large websites with a larger budget. Companies such as Akamai and CloudFlare will cache your website on their own infrastructure across the globe so that when someone visits your website, content is being served from a server that is close to the visitor, thereby reducing latency and lessening the load on your actual web server.

Are there other methods you use to optimize your website? Let me know!

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