4 Quick and Dirty Tricks to Make Your Website Load Faster

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Your site speed is more important than you realize.

How quickly your site loads affects everything from your user experience to your search engine rankings. It doesn’t matter how good your products are; if your site doesn’t load fast enough, your users won’t stick around to experience them.

Fortunately, site speed is a relatively easy issue to tackle. With a few simple tweaks, you can drastically cut down page load time and improve site speed.

In this post, I’ll share 4 quick fixes to get your site to load faster.

1. Use Cloudflare

Cloudflare is a content delivery network (CDN) and distributed DNS (Domain Name Service) provider. Its CDN takes static content and moves it closer to your visitor, leading to significantly faster load times (twice as fast, as per Cloudflare).

If you’re new to CDNs, here’s how they work: the CDN hosts all your static content (images, videos, and everything else that doesn’t change) on servers around the globe. When a user from Mongolia, for example, visits your site, she’ll be served this static content from a server that is closer to her location.

This helps in improving site speed and reducing the traffic load experienced by any single server.

CDNWhile CDNs are nothing new, the reason I recommend Cloudflare is because of its quick setup and ease of use. You can get up and running within 5 minutes without any help from IT. This is perfect when you want an immediate bump in speed without spending hours setting up a CDN.

2. Use Kraken.io to optimize images

Images are the heart of your site’s user experience.

Unfortunately, they also play a significant role in slowing down pages. High-resolution images can be several megabytes when not optimized. A few of these on a page and you’re looking at page sizes of 10+ MB.

Here’s a blog post from Buzzfeed with 14 images. Even for a heavily optimized site like Buzzfeed, the images bloat up the page size to nearly 7 MB:

buzzfeed

This is why you must always compress and optimize your images. A solid image optimization algorithm can often reduce image size by 50% or more.

However, optimizing images manually are slow and laborious – not something you want when you’re short on time.

This is where Kraken.io comes in. Kraken is an image optimization service that can drastically reduce your image size without a compromise in image quality.

Here’s an example:

image download speed

Kraken reduced the image size by over 60% and the difference in quality is negligible to the human eye.

Kraken is available through a subscription and as a free version. Besides an API, the service plugs directly into WordPress and optimizes all your images on the fly.

3. Store images on Amazon S3 for faster delivery

Unless you are running a powerful dedicated server, there’s a good chance that all the images on your site are stretching your server resources.  A sudden spike in traffic and your site might very well go down.

This is why I highly recommend moving all your images and videos to Amazon S3.

Amazon S3 is an endlessly scalable cloud storage service that helps you store and serve static content. This is the same storage service used by some of the world’s biggest startups, as well as Amazon itself.

Shifting static content to Amazon S3 helps in six ways:

  • It frees up resources on your own server.
  • It helps you scale – your site will never go down because you ran out of bandwidth.
  • It reduces costs since Amazon charges you as per your monthly usage, not a fixed monthly cost.
  • It ensures reliability – Amazon keeps at least 3 copies of your data across different server locations.
  • It makes change web hosts extremely easy since you don’t need to shift static content.
  • It improves site performance since your static content is stored on state of the art, tested infrastructure.

Setting up S3 can be a bit complicated. If you’re on WordPress, you can use plugins like WP Offload S3 to make the process easier.

S3 pricing is based on how much storage you use each month. For most websites, this will be under 1TB, which costs $0.03/GB of data.

storage pricing

Thus, if you use 500GB of data in June and 200GB in July, your total cost would be $21 ($15 + $6).

With a conventional host, you’d end up paying a flat monthly fee, regardless of actual use. This can translate into hundreds of dollars of savings.

4. Serve Javascript libraries through Google Hosted Libraries

You might not even know it, but there’s a good chance your site is using multiple Javascript libraries.

Research conducted by W3Techs, for example, found that jQuery – a Javascript library for handling events and manipulating HTML (think page animations, modals, etc.) – is used on nearly two-thirds of all websites worldwide.

Similarly, Bootstrap.js, the Javascript library used by the Bootstrap framework, finds use on nearly 12% of all websites.

Javascript Goodle Hosted Libraries

Many websites store these libraries on their own servers. This presents two problems:

  • Any change to the library requires manually changing the files on your own server.
  • The library can only load as fast as your server resources allow.

An alternative is to use Google Hosted Libraries to serve all your Javascript libraries.

This is a free service by Google which gives developers access to Javascript libraries stored on Google’s cloud servers. Besides jQuery, Google also offers access to AngularJS, MooTools, three.js, etc.

Using hosted libraries provides tons of benefits:

  • Decreased latency: Since Google stores all files from its own CDN, your users will be served Javascript from a server that’s located closer to them, thus reducing latency.
  • Better caching: Modern browsers can detect when a site uses a version of a Javascript library that’s already been downloaded earlier. Since most sites use Google’s hosted libraries, it means that your users will often not even need to download the Javascript files.
  • Latest files: If there is a new update to a library, you’ll get the latest stable version served automatically through the CDN.

Besides Google, there are a few other CDNs you can use for serving different libraries:

Over to You

How quickly your site loads has a big impact on your user experience and site performance. However, instead of switching to expensive web hosts and spending hours fine-tuning your codebase, try the four tactics shared above to improve your site speed.

Here’s what you should take away from this post:

  • Automatically optimize images by using a tool like Kraken.io
  • Use Cloudflare’s CDN for a quick bump in speed.
  • Storing static content on Amazon S3 frees up server resources and reduces your hosting bill.
  • Use hosted Javascript libraries whenever possible.

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