Website Optimization is a broad term. It includes everything from increasing the user experience, to the speed of the website and its SEO. Unless it is your internet connection slowing you down, the best websites load in under a second (Since website speed is often measured in milliseconds, one second is 1,000 milliseconds). Once a website takes longer than 2 seconds (2,000 milliseconds) to load on a 4g connection, many people give up, and go back to Google to click the next link, perhaps losing you money.
Not only does speed affect how visitors interact with your website, but so does its design and usability, or ease of use. SEO is also a big part of optimization, as it always helps to have search engines helping to get you visitors. Enough talk, let's get started on how to make your website fast and friendly.
A quick list of everything you can do to drop some milliseconds from your loading time, improve your users' experiences (UX), and convince search engines that you are awesome. If you want to learn more about something on this list,scroll on down. Oh, and one last thing. Unlike some lists on the web, this one is in alphabetical order since each topic will have a unique effect on every website and its visitors.
Every time your website requests a new file, whether that be an image, HTML, or PHP, your browser has to wait for the server to complete the request. While this generally does not take much time at all, it can certainly add up fast (Just like the prices at a certain store). While condensing all your CSS into one file instead of five, or merging all of your images into one to save space, reducing HTTP requests can place some annoyance on you. It’s a choice that you have to make, easy for you, or faster for your visitors.
Search Engine Optimization is such a big idea, that it can cover an entire article on its own. In fact, we have a list of 20+ of the best SEO tips for your website. Since there is no need to repeat them all here, I recommend you check it out. The basics, however, are as follows. Make sure you use the meta description tag, and use the HTML title and header tags the way they are supposed to be used (As in make sure they have information that is important, and contains your keywords, tailored specifically towards the page itself). Making sure the page itself has quality content, and has good backlinks is also important. If you don’t believe me, click on the links above, they lead directly to Google’s website, which states the same thing.
Making sure that visitors cache your website, or at least part of it, will help speed up load time after the first visit. If you change your content often, setting a lower cache time (For example, one week) is better than nothing. Not only will this speed up the load time for your visitors, but it will also help reduce the amount of stress on your webserver, and if your web hosting provider has strict limits, enforcing caching is a good idea. If you use a CDN like Cloudflare, you have options to set the cache time directly in settings. Otherwise, you can use .htaccess to set how much time visitors should cache your websites files for. The best past? You can change the cache time for each file type (.htaccess only works on Apache servers).
Did you know that more and more people are logging on to the internet from the computer in their pocket? It's true, and you need to be ready for it. If your website is ‘mobile first’, that means you developed it with mobile devices in mind from the start, so your website looks beautiful on any device. Mobile First design is increasingly important in modern times, and should be taken seriously. The folks over at css-tricks have created an amazing article on the topic, and how to successfully develop for mobile devices.
While reducing the amount of HTTP requests is helpful when looking to speed up your website, making files smaller helps as well. Image files can be compressed with online tools, and HTML and CSS files can be compressed for free as well with our online minifier tools for HTML and CSS. Reducing the amount of data that has to be transferred from the server to your visitor helps a lot. Did you know that all that whitespace in your code is partly responsible for your slow website?
While the speed of your website is certainly important, so is its appearance. While your site doesn't need a fresh coat of paint every week, it certainly should have one that allows your visitors to use your website with ease. There are many tips and tricks out there for improving your UI and UX (Don't get the two confused!), but the best is simply thinking like your user. What is good? What should be bigger or a different color? Sometimes, you think your site is perfect in every way, so reaching out to web designer communities is an amazing way to get quality feedback on your site.
Using a CDN can help with the speed and deliverability of your website’s files. Since CDNs have data centers around the globe, they are able to send your files from the center closest to your visor's location. On top of that, many provide extra security that certainly does not hurt to have. CDNs are powerful tools, that when used correctly, can drastically speed up load time, leading to happy visors, and more money.
This article touches briefly on many different things that you can do to help your website grow. Website Optimization is one of those things that is never quite done, as there is always something that you can improve on. Hopefully this article provided you with some good starting points, and convinced you that maintaining websites is awesome. Lastly, please let us know if we missed something, or made a silly error (We are humans after all).
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