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Faster websites result in better user experience, better search engine rankings and more conversions. 1 out of 4 visitors won’t wait for the page to load for more than 4 seconds. The ideal is to find balance between neat performance and indulging the end users’ desire for interactivity, delivering script intensive content.

The options to make your website faster, split in two major categories:

• Speeding up your browser side technologies (browser caching, minifying page elements, minimizing redirects)
• Speeding up by using some of the acceleration technologies (Content Delivery Networks, Dynamic CDN, Media Streaming)

Below are some tips on how to make your website faster.

Browser-Side Optimization

Use the optimal formatting for images: JPEG’s are for photographs, GIF’s are for low color images/flat color images, and PNG’s are for everything else. Also, try and adjust the image size yourself, i.e. set the width and height (width=’60px’ height=’30px’). Use web tools for image optimization (such as Riot, ImageOptim). Don’t store everything locally, try using services like Flickr.

Minify the code for CSS and JavaScript. Again, there are some tools available such as Code Minifier, Minify, JSCompress, CSSCompressor… Put CSS in separate .css files, not embedded in each page. Put Java Script files in .js files, or if you need to include them in HTML, put them at the bottom of the HTML page.

Reduce the number of components of your page. Make a simple design. This will immediately reduce the number of HTTP requests to download all the graphics, video and JavaScript files from your website. Also, avoid Flash elements, or use as little as possible. Try to host as much elements as possible on other websites.

Minimize redirects. Each redirect creates an additional HTTP request and adds RTT (round-trip-time) latency. Use redirects only when absolutely necessary. The more redirection you have, the slower the end user will get to the desired page.

Server-Side Optimization

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) hosting. This means that you will load some of the traffic to cloud based servers with data centers strategically located in different regions of the world. The servers from a data center closer to the end user will always be triggered, so the content reaches him faster.

Reduce DNS Lookups. It takes some milliseconds for DNS (Domain Name System) to resolve an IP address for a given hostname or domain name. The browser cannot do anything until the process is fully completed. Ideally, you should use no more than 4 hostnames. This will also allow for a higher degree of parallel downloads.

Set up a GZIP compression on your web server. It saves bandwidth and solves problems with older browsers. The compressing options vary depending on the server.

Employ media streaming methods. Real-time protocols will read compressed files to deliver data as it arrives. And dismiss the data once it has been streamed. The option to stream media will allow faster views, and compression/decompression methods will dispose of all the unnecessary data that would otherwise clog your connection.

Don’t forget to run a website speed test first. In this way, you will know more precisely which components need to be targeted first.

Recommended further reading on website speed optimization:

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