How to develop a fast loading website

Is your website taking forever to load? Are you losing customers from having a slow loading website? In this article, we will discuss some techniques on how we can improve the loading speed of your website. One of Google’s algorithms for high organic search engine rankings is having fast loading web pages. In order to be successful online you can’t ignore Google. The people at Google have the interest of the search query user at heart. If you listen to Google’s suggestions you’ll have a better website and reap the benefits of higher search engine rankings.

Increase your website speed

Cascade style sheets – CSS

CSS has made web formatting easier for designers and developers since its birth in 1996. For those who are unfamiliar with CSS, it is a programming language that allows designers to easily change the look and change of a web page.

Before the time of CSS, designers had to apply formatting to every single page throughout the website.  If you’re working on a website that has 10,000 pages and you were asked to modify fonts and colours on every single page it would take you forever and a day.

Use one external CSS file

There are some great benefits of using one external CSS file. All your CSS coding will be stored in one file – making your life easier when you return to modify this website later.  If you’re using third party plug-ins that use CSS it’s best to merge multiple CSS files into one larger CSS file. If a web browser has to read and download multiple CSS files it will take longer for the web page to load.

CSS checklist

  • Use shorthand CSS.
  • Remove any comments and white space from your CSS file.
  • Create one external CSS file – if you have multiple CSS files merge these into one external CSS file.
  • Take advantage of CSS sprites – if there are design elements that you can create using CSS this is worth doing. An example with CSS3 you can create navigation with elegant gradients.  Saving you designing navigation in Photoshop, but more importantly reducing HTTP requests.

Reduce HTTP requests

Where someone visits your website the web browser deals with a number of HTTP requests. An example of a HTTP request is when the web browser has to ask the web server for certain information including: an image, external hyperlinks or translate a PHP query.

Reduce the number PHP queries

PHP can be very productive for developers that are running larger websites. The blogging platform WordPress uses a colossal amount PHP scripting. Although, WordPress is targeted at non-technical people, there are some PHP codes that can be replaced by HTML. If you’re familiar with HTML you can hand code the web pages directly into your WordPress and leave the Widgets.

Think of PHP as a foreign language, the web browser doesn’t understand PHP, luckily the web server does. The web server is the translator for the web browser. The more PHP that your website uses the longer it’ll take for your website to download.

Use Relative URL paths

Throughout your website it’s important to use relative URLS where possible. A relative URL is a file or directory that’s related to your present file or directory location.

A relative URL is ideal for internal linking for example:

<a href=”aboutus.html”>About Us</a>

An absolute URL states the full URL as you’d type in the web browser for example:

<a href=http://www.intrahost.co.uk>Intrahost</a>

Using relative URL paths minimises the number of HTTP requests that the web browser has to read.

Use DIV tags

Building websites in tables is out of date and makes your web page heavy.  Tables contain a lot of information for the web browser to process.  DIV and CSS are lighter and easier to work with.

Use images wisely

can make a web design layout look brilliant. However, images can seriously slow your website down.  Design is important, but you need to consider if these images are necessary. If your main design layout is made up from 25 images that’s 25 HTTP requests on images alone. Consider what’s absolutely critical for your website.  Although we have broadband, you still need to reduce your image file size.

Place external JavaScript at the bottom of your web page

The web browser reads content from top to bottom. JavaScript takes the most amount of time to load. It makes sense for the rest of the website to load first then apply the JavaScript last. Chances are the JavaScript isn’t the most important element on your website.

When you develop a website always ask yourself: “what’s important for the web user?” Make the web page fast loading and relevant to the web user.

Minimise the usage of Flash

It is not advised to develop a full Flash based website. Google can’t read a Flash based website and people may not have the patience for the website to load. You can use Flash, however, it’s important to use it sparingly and when it’s absolutely necessary.

Invest in good reliable hosting

Depending on your budget the best option for fast web hosting is a Cloud server. You have access to unshared resources and reap the benefits of a fast loading website. However, if you have a small business and a small online presence this is not realistic.

To get the best web hosting for your money, it’s important to do some market research. Find out as much as possible about your potential web hosting provider. Telephone the contact support team. Ask people in your network which hosting providers they use.  Price is often considered as the number one factor for web hosting. Remember that quality web hosting comes at a price.