How do you improve website performance?
There are dozens of changes large and small, ranging from image optimization and compression to code coverage assessments and browser caching. Each contributes to page speed in different ways.
Why should you improve website performance?
Google now includes page speed in its search results algorithm. And since page load times are shown to correlate with conversion rates, page speeds can have immediate impact on ROI. On mobile, where Google now weights the user experience higher than ever, page speed is a crucial component of user satisfaction.
Basic tools give us clues to existing issues. We use these for an investigation across a site’s major page types, often finding easy fixes.
Google PageSpeed – Assesses common issues with desktop and mobile versions of individual web pages.
YSlow – An open source performance assessment tool, useful to corroborate Google PageSpeed results.
Google Mobile Friendly Test – Assesses common usability issues with mobile pages, which often also cause performance issues.
With access to servers, code, and Google Analytics we look at configurations, problematic pages and other operational impacts. We create a report with low and high effort recommendations.
Hedgehog typically does website performance improvements through a retainer, lasting 3 to 6 months or longer.
Each platform has its own quirks and improvements, but there are a wide range of tweaks, configurations, plug-ins, refactoring and other activities that can greatly improve performance.
With access to analytics, code, and servers, we begin by looking at operational impacts and configurations. Our team will work its way through the recommendations over time, starting with low effort tasks that create immediate impact. Higher effort tasks often take planning and additional budget for 3rd party tools such as a content delivery network (CDN).
We work with clients to prioritize efforts and estimate work needed to accomplish as many improvements as possible.
Upgrade web hosting account power – Sometimes the hosting server is just underpowered, and an upgrade will speed everything up.
Activate HTTP Keep-Alive – Uses the same TCP connection to make multiple sequential HTTP requests, instead of opening and closing a connection for each request.
Activate GZip compression – Uses industry standard file compression to reduce files transferred over HTTP.
Activate browser caching – Establishes local caching of files, particularly useful for images and static pages.
CSS asset optimization – A variety of minor changes including minifying and combining.
Basic image optimization – A one-time fix of existing images can have an immediate impact. But this does not address ongoing efforts, nor is it optimal.
There are dozens of areas for improvement. The most common:
Tuning servers – Everything from the database to web to content delivery can impact performance. There are dozens, if not hundreds of tweaks that can be made.
Automate image optimization – There are a wide range of possible solutions with varying levels of effort and expense. The right approach is situational by client.
Add a CDN – A content delivery network can have a substantial impact but can add cost and complexity.
Analyze code coverage – Over time CSS and JS can include orphaned code. Looking at coverage helps identify potential improvements.
This just touches on some common areas. One important point about website performance improvement is the standards and tactics change all the time. As new technologies are introduced into the web stack, there are impacts everywhere that require reassessment and improvements.
Clients can expect regular site assessments with updated investigation so they can keep ahead of these changes.