One of our more recent projects involved some modification to a flash web page and it's improvement from the search engine optimization point of view. The client was complaining that his page was loading very slow and it was not very accessible from the main search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing). I am not going to write about my experience with that particular web site, but the use of Flash for web development is slowly dying while the seo is having more and more influence over web design.

Reasons of having a fast loading web site

The speed of a site reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests (from human visitors and crawlers/spiders as well). Faster websites make the users happy (that kind of happy that may make them stay more and return), a slow site will make the user spend less time there - it may make them close the browser window or tab before the site was loaded completely.

Remember that the mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are used more and more often and they usually access site via public wi-fi or the internet access offered by phone companies. If your web page is not optimized also the that devices it will load slower or not at all - you may loose a visitor for the moment and there is a risk that the visitor will never return (from any device or computer connected to the internet).

From another point of view: if an e-commerce site is making 100.000 euros per day (for example), a 1 second page delay could potentially cost you several million euros in lost sales every year.

Effects of fast loading web sites

Last year Google incorporated site speed as one of the over 200 signals used in determining search rankings. Of course, it's not the most relevant one, but a site with great content and fast loading pages will be almost all the time in the top. Yup: don't forget the content of the site. Everybody loves (including the search engines) a site that shows them something interesting and they don't have to wait to get it.

A fast loading page will have a greater impact to the visitors, whatever it's design. There are 3 very important things that will impress a visitor of your site: the design, the speed and the content. The crawlers/spiders used by the search engines are blind, so they don't care about the design. But they will consider the other 2 things (among others).

Several tips how to get fast loading web sites

Remember that in web world HTML rules. Whatever language you use (php, perl, C/C , Java/JSP, ColdFusion, ASP or C#), they all get as result a lot of HTML tags. Over that you may add CSS, Javascript and Flash in order to make you web site more attractive and put a lot of image in the page to make the visitor watch them.

In order to make your page to load fast you must keep it as closer as you can (without losing the quality of the design) to HTML. Avoid using big files in the site (like Flash video, big images and animated GIF's), but if you really have to use them remember to use as fewer as you can.

Don't use too many images

It's a well known thing that images can greatly enhance the look of a site, but also they can really slow it down if there are too many. You should decide if all your images are really needed (they can easily be replaced with css effects and sometimes they should have).

Use the height and width tags

Using the height and width tags for images tells the browser the size and the place of the image before loading it, otherwise the page has to wait and to load the image before the text. The same thing happens also with the tables.

Faster images: reduce their file size

Using a lot of images can bring some additional megabytes to a page. Reducing the size of the files on server will decrease the traffic and the time of loading the site.

Use external CSS and javascripts files for faster pages

CSS can greatly improve your web sites load time! There is a big difference between defining the CSS for every element of the page inside the script and the definition of the style sheet with all the classes and id-s into an external file. Using the external file will allow the browser to cache all the formatting and stylizing for your pages instead of having to read each and every single tag all over again.

Do you use the same script on multiple pages? Switch to an external script: load the javascript files from one source instead of adding all that code to each of your pages like this:

<script type="text/javascript" src="yourscript.js"></script>

That way the browser already has it in it's cache and won't have to read it each time another page loads. This one saves a ton of load time, specially for larger scripts!

Split up long pages: multiple short pages load faster

It may happen that you have some long texts you want to present to the visitors, some that could fill in several A4 pages on both sides and small font size. Split the text into several short pages instead putting in into a summer-day long page. The pages will load faster, the attention of the people will not be lost (nobody likes to scroll a lot to the bottom of the window) and you will also increase the number of internal links (if it happens once or twice it does not count, but long texts may happen more the once).

Keep your code clean

There are several popular wysiwyg editors that are integrated into the scripts of the page (into the backend) that allows you to save the clear readable text as formatted html text. Usually these wysiwyg editors allow the user to copy paste formatted text from the packages like Open Office or Microsoft Office that have a lot of useless code (for example empty tags <font> </font> or <span> </span> and <font size="4"> <font color="white"> the text </font></font>).

Removing any of those excess tags or adding the properties to only one or two tags will not only speed up your load time, but make you pages validate a lot cleaner.

 

The list can continue with at least a dozen tips. I prefer to stop here, I may continue some other time with additional information. Util then, if you are not clear about something in the text or you need more detailed information about anything don't hesitate to contact us.

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