One of the most important aspects of any website is loading time. No matter how flashy your graphics or interesting your content is, if it doesn’t appear to the visitor in a speedy manner, it’s unlikely they’ll ever see any of it. Below we’ve outlined some helpful tips to ensure that your website will load in a blink of an eye and keep your viewers in place!
1. Optimize, optimize, optimize.
In the event that your pages have more than five images displayed on them, you will want to optimize the images for the Internet. This essentially means using a mode of compression to make the images smaller and load faster. Many commercial websites use this technique to great effect – how do you think Facebook loads so quickly? A good rule of thumb is to use GIF files as much as possible at lower optimizations when it comes to the graphics on your page. Insofar as photographs are concerned, highly compressed JPGS are good. PNG files tend to take up a lot of space, and don’t go anywhere near a bitmap!
2. Physical distance still matters in the virtual age.
If your web host is farther than forty miles away from where you live, you might want to look into getting a new host. You can figure out where your web host is located by doing a simple ping test. If the ping test shows that your web host is on the other side of the planet, you might want to consider hosting elsewhere. The closer they are to you, the faster your load times will be.
3. Is your web host’s equipment cheap?
These days, it seems as though you can get your website hosted for less than pennies on the dollar. In general this would be seen as a good thing for those of us who don’t have hundreds of dollars a month to spend on hosting, but it could also be affecting your load times. Cheaper companies often use cheaper equipment, which means that your visitors might have to wait longer for your pages to load. Remember: you get what you pay for. This applies to web hosts, as well. Weigh the cost of web hosting against how much traffic your website gets – if you’re having thousands of visitors per day, it might be worth it to upgrade to a more expensive web host that utilizes better equipment.
4. Cache it.
Want to get your website to load quick as a blink for your repeat visitors? Enable PHP caching. This will instruct the browser to load the website once and then store away the images and everything else for later retrieval. This way there’s only one time that the visitor has to wait for the Internet to produce the images.
5. Is your bandwidth slow?
Most larger hosts have multiple bandwidth providers in order to handle a lot of traffic. You can check to see how fast your own bandwidth is by performing a trace route test. Once you’ve done that, check to see if your provider is linked up with companies such as Sprint, Level (3) Communications, AT&T, MCI-Verizon or Mizma. If it is, your bandwidth has a good chance of being fast – but many of the smaller web hosts can’t afford to partnership with these companies. How important this is to you depends on the size of your website. If you’re running a larger page, you might want to consider moving to a web host that works with one of the above companies. This will go a long way toward ensuring that your pages load reliably and quickly for many visitors!
6. Keep your CSS files small.
If your CSS is over 75KB in size, it could be dragging your user’s experience down. If you run a smaller website, be sure to keep it below this number. However, if you have a bigger website with lots of pages with a lot of graphics and code, it might be necessary to exceed this amount. Should this be the case, be sure to monitor your website regularly and remove pieces of code that you no longer use regularly. It may also be worth your time and money to pay a web designer to go through and edit your CSS to help you trim the fat, particularly if you are running a larger operation.
7. How are your databases optimized?
Poorly optimized databases can slow your website down. If you’re not sure how to do this, simply run a Google search on database optimization for the lowdown. There’s literally hundreds of ways to make sure that your databases are optimized for maximum performance.
8. Cool down the hotlinking.
The term “hotlinking” refers to when another website uses your website as a server for files. For example, if you have a video file embedded on your website and another website embeds the same file yet uses your source code, that website is hotlinking. This means that the second website is using your bandwidth to play that file. Hotlinking takes up enormous amounts of a website’s bandwith and can really slow down your load time. In order to eliminate hotlinking, you can check if social networking websites, such as MySpace, show up in your referral files or if a certain file is being served more often than the page that the file is located on. If you notice hotlinking, you can usually access hotlinking protection through the control panels of your web host. If not, you may need to take the file down.
With these tips in mind, get out on the web and make your presence known! If you have a well optimized website that loads fast and is easy to navigate, you’ve already won half the battle. The rest of it is all in your content and user experience – but having a quickly loading website is the first step in making sure that web surfers stick around long enough to see it!