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How to Speed up Your Website

There are many different ways to speed up your website after analyzing load time with utilities like Pingdom or Google’s PageSpeed Insights, but it all comes down to how it was built in the first place. Thought needs to be given not only on how to make a site visually appealing, but on how fast it loads. In addition to user experience, speed plays a key role in where your page ranks in search engines. The faster the page, the better your chances of ranking high. Below are the basics on how to make a site load as fast as possible without compromising design.

Minimize files

Files make up a website. The more files, the more weight is brought to the overall site. 20kb for a image is not much, but when you have hundreds of images, it adds up. Think of an empty site as a bucket and the more files you put in that bucket, the heavier the bucket becomes. The heavier the bucket, the slower you can walk with it. Same goes for a website and the internet.

Select a good hosting service

Choosing a reputable and speedy host is key. Some cheaper hosting companies will get the job done, but slow down your website’s loading time. On most hosting accounts, you’ll likely be sharing server space with a bunch of other accounts and the speed of your website is affected by the number of other accounts using that same server. If you have a fairly large site, you might want to consider getting dedicated hosting where you’re the sole user of that server. We recommend Mediatemple as a great service that doesn’t break the bank for either shared hosting or dedicated.

Use image sprites

Every time an image is shown on a website, the server makes a request for it. The more requests, the longer it will take for the page to load. An image sprite is where you combine all background images into 1 single file so the server only makes 1 request. They are displayed by using background-image and background-position properties. Read more on how to use image sprites.

Compress and minify files

If you absolutely need certain files to display your site, there are ways to make those files smaller. Minifying a file is essentially putting all the code on 1 line to reduce “whitespace”. Much like reading a book, if all text were one wrapping line, the book would be smaller. Same goes for a script, file or webpage. A server reads code almost exactly as you would read a book.. Use a compression uitlity like Gzip to make images smaller and then decompress them when they need to be loaded. Gzip acts much like a .zip file we’re all used to and greatly reduces the loading time of a website.

Reduce plugins

When using content managements systems such as WordPress, a big contributor to a slow loading site is the overuse/misuse of plugins. Most people and underskilled developers will add plugins for everything, greatly adding weight to a site/page. Some tasks can be accomplished with a simple line of code. I make it a point to use a plugin only when it’s absolutely necessary. Poor or outdated plugins can also slow down a site dramatically as well. For older sites, outdated and duplicate plugins, should be examined to optimize speed.

In the end, a site is only as good as how useful it is and speed contributes to usefulness. People visiting your site want information. The faster they get that information, the more successful the site will be. While things flying around the monitor and nifty effects may seem cool and fun to play with, ultimately the speed of a site determines its success and there must be a balance. It all comes down to files, and how many there are and how heavy they are.

Check your site here on Pingdom or use Google’s PageSpeed Insights. If you see some warnings, ask us how we can help!

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