SAScon blog - Take One - How can we reduce page load-times?

11 May 2011 | by Chris Marsh

Chris Merrett, Senior Linux Engineer at Melbourne Server Hosting has pulled together a blog post on thoughts on how to reduce page load speed – something that could be helpful for organic rankings too. So here you go – enjoy!

At Melbourne, the burning idea we’re always asked is – how can we improve web page load times? Everyone understands the speed of your site can make all the difference when it comes to holding the attention of potential users. What people don’t realise is that there are a lot of tweaks you can make to your code and server environment that will drastically improve performance across the board.

In our two-part master class, we’re going to take you through a handful of recommendations and briefly explain ways in which you can put them into action. Do click through the links as hopefully, you’ll find that one or two of our top tweaks will make a big difference.
Minimising connections

There are loads of ways in which you can minimise connections to your web server and us connections that are made more economically. Most modern web servers allow you to enable a ‘KeepAlive’ on connections that are established. This allows a client to re-use the same connection many times, instead of constantly opening and closing connections, which increases the competition between everyone trying to access the server. This will help reduce load times and improve connection management. But what about actually reducing connections?

There are tonnes of different ways of doing this, but here are a few of my picks:

  • Combining files – this involves combining all JavaScript files into one and combining all CSS into a single stylesheet. This could immediately reduce ‘n’ connections into just two. It also has the side effect of making ‘minification’ for both JavaScript and CSS straightforward. More on that later…
  • CSS sprites – this is the practice of combining all of the images for a page into one image file and then selecting the area of the image required via CSS. This

also results in one connection to load images and has the added bonus of making better use of colour palettes and compression.

  • Splitting dynamic and static content – If you can justify the cost, it can be beneficial to split dynamic content from static content, such as images, CSS, JavaScript and Flash. It gives you a much finer degree of control over your environment and allows you to apply tweaks either to the static content server or dynamic content server, dependent on your needs. Technically, this doesn’t reduce connections. It splits them instead, but as far as each server is concerned does have that effect.

We’ve only just scratched the surface on what’s possible when it comes to site optimisation, but hopefully it’s given you food for thought. We’ll be back with ‘Take Two,’ when we’ll take a look at compressing content and code acceleration.

The published blog can be found on the SAScon website here: http://www.sascon.co.uk/blog/how-can-we-reduce-page-load-times/

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