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Beautiful doesn't have to mean slow – a few things about website optimisation

June 11, 2014 • By

I came across a useful post the other day (you can read here), which was informative and eye opening about something we designers don’t often consider when creating a new site – and that is the speed the site loads. It’s an easy assumption to make that because broadband and crazy fast fibre is everywhere these days is that all sites will load quickly regardless. However this post points out that is in fact not the case and that the overall speed of your visitor’s internet connection doesn’t actually help too much.

Although quite technically in-depth, it’s a worthwhile read for any web designer regardless of their technical knowledge and provides a useful set of tips and design guidelines to consider when developing and coding your site, which if you try to adhere too will mean your end result is just that much snappier for your visitor.

Something that you might not have realised, is that your page load times has a direct connection to your search engine positions. This is something that Google have added because it understands that your visitors value fast sites, and if you’re site is taking several seconds to spit out each page your visitor isn’t going to hang around.

To speed up your site, there are several approaches you can take, one interesting one is using Cloudflare’s global Content Delivery Network. To do this you point your domain name to them, and they point to your website, the end result is that your website is cached on their global network, and loaded quickly from a server closest to your visitor. The best part about that? It’s completely free!

More advanced advice includes using subdomains for different types of site assets, for instance loading your javascript from one subdomain, your css from another, and your images from another, doing this enables your visitor’s browser to download the files simultaneously, greatly speeding the appearance and rendering of the page.x

An easy win can also be found from combining, minfying, compressing your site’s asset files into one file, this means your visitor’s browser only has to download one file of each type and compression means that you can cut up to 80% off of the filesize. There are a lot of easy to use and free tools that do this for you, and you can do it either during development, or on the fly with each page load. With that in mind, make sure your host is allowing compression of your static files and it’s enabled, this will get a good chunk.

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