Hosting Talk: Fast and Furious

Steven Daris

In the early days of the Internet, it wasn’t uncommon to wait 30-40 seconds to download even relatively simple pages – slow loading was one of the defining characteristics of the web in its early days. The kind of content-rich websites that we now take for granted were but a glimmer in our eyes.

It’s no coincidence that ecommerce was virtually non-existent back then, relegated to a handful of pioneering websites that essentially served as online catalogs and order forms. As the web’s infrastructure improved, the conditions were set for the ecommerce revolution. From the very beginning, speed and sales have been intertwined and now the success of every ecommerce site relates directly to the rate at which it functions.

Internal research and analysis of their proprietary data, Google discovered that a slowdown of just 500 milliseconds resulted in a 20 percent decrease in ad revenue, while Amazon reported that a 100ms speed reduction lead to a 1 percent decrease.

From search engines to online shopping sites, the importance of speed, particularly the quickness of page-loads, is a crucial element for profit. Leading technology companies spend millions to improve the speed of their sites and products, in some cases by mere fractions of a second, underscoring just how big a difference even a miniscule difference in speed can make.

For example, through internal research and analysis of their proprietary data, Google discovered that a slowdown of just 500 milliseconds resulted in a 20 percent decrease in ad revenue, while Amazon reported that a 100ms speed reduction lead to a 1 percent decrease. On its Bing search engine, Microsoft found that a two-second slowdown on the return of search engine results caused a significant reduction in overall queries to the engine, as well as a corresponding decline in clicks on search result pages.

Given the importance of speed to ecommerce, it’s imperative to optimize your websites to facilitate fast response to user requests, minimal buffering and lag time for media content, and fast page loading speed. Keep in mind that there will always be factors beyond the control of site owners and administrators, especially on a network as complex and interconnected as the global Internet, but these tips will go a long way toward ensuring that your sites are as fast and responsive as possible.

Choose a Hosting Provider With Excellent Connectivity, Data Throughput and Redundancy

In many ways, great website performance begins and ends with your host’s network. Be sure to choose a provider with a high-capacity network, an excellent track record of stability and uptime, and (ideally) multiple, redundant connections to the Internet backbone.

Optimize Your Images and Other Webpage Content

Even in the age of readily available broadband services for consumers, there’s no need to use images with file sizes large enough to slow down your page loads. It’s possible to compress an image considerably without reducing its visual quality, so make sure it’s a high priority. Save all images in JPEG format, if you can, and remove any unnecessary comments or colors,

Avoid Unnecessary Or Redundant Scripting

A lot of web pages get a little “script happy” and use complex coding to do jobs that could be handled with far simpler scripting, or wind up with redundant code over time. Regularly audit the code of your site, especially any that executes as a function of the initial loading of your site. You want to avoid requiring the user’s browser to process any code that simply isn’t necessary to the core function of your site and/or shopping cart.

Minify HTML, CSS And Javascript

Minify HTML, CSS and JavaScript speed up these formats’ loading times by “minifying” or compressing them. You can find several online tools to do this, including Will Peavy minifier and Autoptimize for WordPress.

Minimize Redirects

Though redirects are necessary, they add latency so be sure to keep only the ones that are absolutely necessary. Google recommends avoiding reference URLs known to redirect to other URLs and to make sure that all start points redirect directly to their target page with no middle steps.

Put CSS in The Document Head; Improve Rendering Performance by Putting Stylesheets in the Head of Each Webpage

Browsers often leave visitors looking at a white screen until all external stylesheets have been downloaded, so by referencing them – as well as inline style blocks – at the head of the page, you can ensure a progressive render and a positive user experience. There are many other things you can do to optimize the performance and speed of your websites, including employing content distribution networks, making intelligent use of cloud hosting, and taking advantage of browser and server caching. But heeding the simple, fundamental advice outlined above will provide a solid basis to start from – and offer a speedbased revenue boost that should be quickly noticeable when analyzing your bottom line.

Steven Daris is CEO and co-founder of Red Apple Media (RedAppleMedia.com), a managed hosting, ecommerce and video streaming solutions provider.