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How Do I Make My Website Faster?

Slow Loading Websites Can Have Problems

At Webstix, we do original website design work but sometimes we get designs from clients that they want turned into websites. With our own design work, we're very in tune with making a website mobile responsive as well as making them load quickly. Some exceptions might be websites that are for entertainment purposes but even with those, there are measures we can take so that they load fairly quickly. If we're working on a design that was given to us, we try to nicely notify our client about what problems there may be with their design.

If your website does use too many images, then you may encounter some problems, which may include:

  • Slow load times
  • Errors with some web browsers/computers
  • Lower website rankings

The website might also be in a more fragile state since it's so dependent on images.

Diagnose Your Website

The first thing you want to see if there's anything that can be improved. Maybe there are some things. There are tools online to help you diagnose a slow website:

If you don't know "geek speak," you might find the results given at these websites a little over your head. That's where we can come in and help.

What Can You Do?

If your website is graphic/image intensive, then there may be a few things you can do to help it load more quickly.

Here's some information from here:

Reducing Your Website's Bandwidth Usage (blog.codinghorror.com)

There are a number of free or nearly-free image sharing sites on the net which make this a viable strategy:

  • Imageshack
    ImageShack offers free, unlimited storage, but has a 100 MB per hour bandwidth limit for each image. This sounds like a lot, but do the math: that's 1.66 MB per minute, or about 28 KB per second. And the larger your image is, the faster you'll burn through that meager allotment. But it's incredibly easy to use-- you don't even have to sign up-- and according to their common questions page, anything goes as long as it's not illegal.
  • Flickr
    Flickr offers a free basic account with limited upload bandwidth and limited storage. Download bandwidth is unlimited. Upgrading to a paid Pro account for $25/year removes all upload and storage restrictions. However, Flickr's terms of use warn that "professional or corporate uses of Flickr are prohibited", and all external images require a link back to Flickr.
  • Photobucket
    Photobucket's free account has a storage limit and a download bandwidth limit of 10 GB per month (that works out to a little over 14 MB per hour). Upgrading to a paid Pro account for $25/year removes the bandwidth limit. I couldn't find any relevant restrictions in their terms of service.
  • Amazon S3
    Amazon's S3 service allows you to direct-link files at a cost of 15 cents per GB of storage, and 20 cents per GB transfer. It's unlikely that would add up to more than the ~ $2 / month that seems to be the going rate for the other unlimited bandwidth plans. It has worked well for at least one other site.

I like ImageShack a lot, but it's unsuitable for any kind of load, due to the hard-coded bandwidth limit. Photobucket offers the most favorable terms, but Flickr has a better, more mature toolset. Unfortunately, I didn't notice the terms of use restrictions at Flickr until I had already purchased a Pro account from them. So we'll see how it goes. Update: it looks like Amazon S3 may be the best long-term choice, as many (if not all) of these photo sharing services are blocked in corporate firewalls.

Use a CDN

A CDN is a Content Distribution Network. It works at the DNS level is not too difficult to set up. The one we've had success with is called CloudFlare. They have a free plan, which is worth checking out. They do some caching for you but if you set it up right, you won't really notice it.

Set Up Page Caching

A CDN like CloudFlare should take care of this for you but if you don't want to use that, then consider using server page caching. How this essentially works is that pages are generated and stored as HTML files. The next time the page is requested, the cached, HTML file is served up instead of the page that would require some database connections to happen.

Get Faster Hosting

The best kind of website hosting you can get now is hosting that uses SSD (solid state drives). Get on a powerful server that uses SSD and you should notice an improvement.

Optimize Images

It'll help to do image optimization. What that simply means is compress images to their smallest size while still maintaining image quality. This can be done manually (each image) or with tools.

Your Website Traffic

There are two things to mention about traffic...

First, you might want to monitor where your traffic is coming from. If you really only do business in the United States and if you're getting large amounts of traffic from other countries, then you may want to consider blocking those countries. So far, doing this isn't something simple and because IP filtering needs to be done, it most likely will slow down all website traffic - no matter which country the traffic comes from (including the USA). There's no great solution here but if you use hosting that's' fast enough, it might be something to consider.

Second, website traffic is only going to magnify whatever load problems you have. More and more traffic will only strain your website. If more and more people are requesting large images from your website, it's only going to run slower and slower. This is why it's important to always optimize images as you upload them to your website. It only takes a minute or so to do that. If you're saving half a second by optimizing an image, then after just 120 image loads, you're saving everyone's time (net savings). This is hard to explain but just know that every, little thing helps, so don't be lazy and do it right.

Conclusion

How your website is built matters - a lot. How you maintain your website matters - a lot. Add traffic to a problem and it's only magnified. Plan for lots of traffic. Watch how much traffic you're getting and consider getting speed tests done monthly or quarterly. If you keep your website visitors' user experience in mind and work to serve them, you will only succeed.

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