Are you having issues with your sites loading slower than they should?
This is far from rare nowadays, and you’re not alone – and lucky for you, there are plenty of things you can do to minimize the issue and ensure that the end-user experience for people using your sites is smooth and trouble-free. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to implement some of the ideas here, and you can get some potentially great benefits in the end too.[toc]
Hosting libraries on your own server vs externally
If you’re using third-party tools and libraries, such as jQuery, you might want to do some tests to see whether your site loads faster when those resources are loaded locally, as opposed to when they’re loaded from third-party sites (such as the original developer’s site).
Your results will vary a lot and it’s quite hard to make an accurate prediction about which way things are going to swing, so it’s a good idea to do various tests in multiple different scenarios to make sure that you have the full picture.
Don’t completely write off the idea of hosting these things externally either – sometimes, when you’re relying on Google’s servers for example, requests can be processed significantly faster than even with your own servers. That way you’re not only making your site load faster, but you’re saving some bandwidth and server load as well, something which can never be in excess. In general, you should also make sure your hosting is adequate. Even cheap web hosting firms can offer a great service providing you choose the right one.
Proper caching practices
A great way to ensure that your sites will load faster and that they also impose a smaller load on your server is to make sure that data is cached properly. This will vary from one site to another, depending on the type of content you’re serving, but many things can be cached quite efficiently with a minimal loss of consistency.
In fact, you don’t even have to sacrifice any consistency across sessions if you do things right. There’s a myth that caching can make your site deliver outdated content, but this only happens when there is a problem with the configuration of your caching system. For most people’s need, this is actually recommended to some extent, as it will take a huge load off your server.
Validate your markup
Having technically correct HTML might not seem like a very important factor, but it’s actually a critical one when you want to make sure that your sites load as fast as possible and with no unnecessary delays. Modern browsers tend to be pretty good at figuring out what the designer of a page intended to do when they run across some incorrect markup, but it takes some extra processing power – and time – to do that, meaning that pages will effectively load slower.
Sometimes the difference will be negligible, but in other cases, fixing up the markup of your site can significantly improve both the loading times as well as the overall performance. There are various tools that can help you validate your markup and ensure that your code is correct in all places, so make use of them as much as possible.
Generate some content dynamically
This is a relatively new trend, but it’s catching on quite fast. The general principle is simple – you can reduce the load on your server by https://blog.stackpath.com/glossary/dynamic-content/generating some of the content on the client’s side instead of sending it all over the wire.
For example, if you need to populate a table with values, you can only send the contents of the table, without the relevant markup and styling for each row/cell. Then, the client’s browser can take that data, feed it into a script that produces a table, and voila – you have the exact same result on the client’s side without any visible differences in the output, yet your server got away with sending far less data than it normally would.
This concept isn’t universally applicable and it does require your site to be structured in a certain way to be suitable for implementing it, but when it does work, it can lead to some significant improvements in the overall loading speed and user experience.
What’s more, you can then change the contents of these tables more easily by just touching up something in the script that generates them, as opposed to having to modify the entire design.
Keep in mind that relying too heavily on scripted pages can slow down the site in other ways, especially for users with slower computers. If you want to make your site as accessible as possible to everyone around, you should run some tests to see which option works better in terms of final performance.
Sometimes one style will be noticeably better for you, but in other cases you could see results that are the exact opposite. This makes it important to measure as much as possible and work with real data.