Optimising your website for speed brings numerous benefits for an online business. An increase in conversions, customer satisfaction plus a reduction in operational costs all positively impacts the bottom line.   In terms of SEO, the faster your website, the higher it will rank in the natural or organic searches.

In this episode we focus on 10 ways to optimise your website and increase conversions. I speak to Kyle York , the VP in charge of Sales and Marketing for Dyn and Andy Piggott, the Managing Director of Incutio. We cover the main factors affecting the speed of a website and more importantly, the steps you can take today to make your website faster and reap the benefits of speed.

In true Kaizen style, we also cover ways in which you can measure some of the more critical metrics . The measurements you should really care about are:

1. TTFB – Time To First Byte. This is the measure of how long it takes for your browser to get data back from a web server after you’ve hit go. During this time the browser must ‘locate’ the website (convert name to number) and then ask the address its given for the relevant webpage. As soon as that webserver sends the first bit of data back, we have our TTFB. This is an important metric as browsers will often start showing the user to the page as soon as the first bytes come back. This test is the best indicator as to whether you have infrastructure problems (DNS, Hosting).

2. TTSR – Time To Start Render. This is the measure of when a site will start rendering the page, this may not be because of infrastructure problems but due to how your site is built, sites with a lot of images or with bad Javascript often experience poor render times.

The Ten Ways to Optimise Your Website :

1. Check your TTFB at: www.bytecheck.com, if it’s higher than say 500m/s, pursue your hosting company as it’s likely to be infrastructure related (eg: slow or overloaded servers).

2. Compress text components using gzip, check if it’s enabled on your site: http://www.whatsmyip.org/http_compression/ – if it isn’t, get your development company or hosting company to enable it.

3. Reduce number of HTTP requests – merge your stylesheets into one document, merge javascript filess together and think about using css sprites: http://css-tricks.com/css-sprites/

4. Use caching, it’s a good thing, read about what Google recommend: http://code.google.com/speed/page-speed/docs/caching.html

5. Optimise your images and use the right ones in the right place; For most logos and computer generated graphics you should be using 8-bit PNGs unless you require animation, when you should be using a GIF. Photographs should usually be saved as JPEGs, and optimised to balance quality and size.

6. Most browsers will download and execute any Javascript files referenced in the ‘head’ section of the page before attempting to render the page to the user, so move what you can to the end of the page. Some scripts (such as Google Analytics) can be loaded asynchronously, which means the browser will download them without delaying other resources.

7. Enable Keep Alive – this allows the browser to download multiple objects from the server without having to create a new connection for each one.  You can find out if Keep Alive is enabled via: www.webpagetest.org, once you test your site then you can see in the “Details” section whether the connections show “Keep Alive”.

8. Monitor everything – we monitor our internal application performance using RPM from newrelic.com and user experience via catchpoint.com, both offer a free trial, why not see how they can enable your business?

9. DNS – hosting companies DNS servers tend to perform inconsistently and slower than dedicated DNS services.  Incutio moved their DNS to the Dynect platform from Dyn.com and experienced improvements of 80 to 3000m/s in different areas of the world.

10. CDN – get your content onto a CDN.  Both Incutio and Dyn partner with Edgecast who have a fantastic network.  Using a CDN improves the performance of your site by delivering the content from locations nearer the user, it also means your servers have to do a lot less work and ultimately reduces costs as well as improving your performance and therefore your conversion.

This Top 10 list has been made possible by Incutio, a web development business that has been specialising in eCommerce Solutions and Content Management Systems for over 10 years.  They run two platforms – www.salesonrails.co.uk for eCommerce and Fabric their content management system.  Incutio does more than just build brilliant sites, the team produce and execute online marketing strategies to grow their clients businesses at a manageable rate.  This includes search engine optimisation, pay-per-click marketing and social media services.  If you’d like to find out how Incutio could help your online business grow, get in touch with them via www.incutio.com or reach out to Andy Piggott at andy@incutio.com

3 Comments on “12 Is Your Website Up for the Speed Race?

  1. I’m a big fan of smallbizkaizen so it was a real pleasure to do this interview with Brian!

    Keep up the great work – I hope we can enable more small businesses to get more from their technology in future episodes.


    • Part 2 of this episode will be released on the 18th of November . Be sure not to miss it !

  2. So the rule about combining your JavaScript and CSS into single files is somewhat outdated. It was good advice back in 2008, but less so today (unless all your users are still on IE6). Most browsers do parallel script and CSS downloads, so take advantage of that and split up your scripts. You’ll need to do a lot of testing from around the world and with different ISPs to figure out what’s optimum for a particular user, but you can get a performance boost from doing that. My article on the performance calendar: http://calendar.perfplanet.com/2010/thoughts-on-performance/ has more details.

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