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Why is speed important?

28 June 2012

The comments we get most often from people using our websites is that they are very fast to load and simple to use. This is not by accident as a lot of time and effort has gone into making them that way.

While the average page size on the web is now somewhere north of 1Mb, mostly due to increased reliance on bloated JavaScript libraries, most of our web pages use only 10-20% as much bandwidth, and less for subsequent requests.

This keeps the transfer fast and makes it less likely that your users will 'hang up' while waiting for content to load.

For further speed improvements, our servers deliver content that has been compressed using gzip and with CSS and JavaScript elements both minified and combined where possible. Download times are reduced and the files can be rapidly unpacked by the web browser.

We also write our HTML, CSS and JavaScript code by hand so as to make it as small and efficient as possible. Keeping the code short makes it easier for search engines to decipher what's important on a page and that in turn boosts your search engine ranking. Page load times are now also a factor in Google so that's a double bonus.

On the server side we are cacheing common database queries to avoid repeated transactions. Some page elements can also be cached, or stored within your browser (using HTML5 LocalStorage), to save reloading at all as you navigate from page to page.

These and other optimisation techniques mean that our web servers only run at 1-2% of capacity most of the time so there are no hold-ups. The new hosting location also sports multiple redundant high-speed connections making for little or no network congestion.

There are many other factors that affect website speed including optimising images, ordering of styles and scripts, the number of page elements, etc. We try to address as many as possible during development and when the website goes live.

To run a quick test on your website you can use the GTMetrix reporting tool linked below. And next time you come across a really slow website try running it through the same tests to find the cause.

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