Fast Content Is Good Content

Stephen Yagielowicz

It’s been said before and it bears repeating: Having the best website content in the world won’t matter if folks won’t wait to see it. With this in mind, webmasters should focus on ways in which they can boost the perceived speed at which their pages load.

While a wide range of strategies and techniques are available to facilitate the process, including the use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) as a performance boosting tool for sites delivering large multimedia and other files; a strict adherence to using the HTTP GET method (rather than POST) when dealing with AJAX; and limiting the number of requests each page makes to the server; one of the most useful and effective technologies is server-based content compression.

Having the best website content in the world won’t matter if folks won’t wait to see it.

Content compression allows web servers to squeeze certain files on-the-fly, trading a slight increase in server load for often vastly improved page load times. While image and video files, among others, already benefit from compression and may be harmed by being included in such an array, large text-based files, such as elaborate style sheets, can benefit dramatically from adding the following filters, courtesy of the WordPress Codex, to your website’s .htaccess file:

<IfModule mod_deflate.c>

# Insert filters
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-httpd-php
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-httpd-fastphp
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/svg+xml

# Drop problematic browsers
BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4 gzip-onlytext/html
BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4\.0[678] nogzip
BrowserMatch \bMSI[E] !no-gzip !gzip-only-text/html

# Make sure proxies don?t deliver the wrong content
Header append Vary User-Agent env=!dont-vary


Although you may need to tweak the above settings to match your specific web server environment and current .htaccess settings, this example forms a great starting point for enabling file compression on most servers. Back up your files and give compression a try — see if it puts your site into the fast lane!