The Four Steps of Optimizing Website Code

A good looking website is the foundation of any business on the Internet. It attracts consumers and makes sure they stay long enough to develop an interest in your product. While website design is generally an art, rather than science, there are exceptions to this rule. Website code is one of them. A well-written website will perform flawlessly and reliably. Conversely, a poorly written one will scare potential customers away. One of the decisive factors is the speed at which the website loads.

First, Understand How Code Affects Page Loading Speeds

The length of time it takes for the computer to download the page from the server and display it on the monitor is determined by dozens of factors. Connection speed and bandwidth are immediately obvious, as is the size of the assets used on the website. However, the most important factor is the glue that binds them together, namely the website code. Making sure your site is optimized in this aspect can greatly enhance the site’s appeal without much investment. At minimum, it certainly won’t hurt.

Second, Optimize the Server

The principal factor is the choice of provider. As any website analyzer will tell you, a good hosting service providing lots of bandwidth and high connection speeds will go a long way towards an optimal site performance. However, even the best of providers will be helpless when the server is used in a suboptimal way. Apart from organizing the assets logically, the easiest first step is to enable Gzip compression on the server, which will reduce the size of the assets at no loss. A more advanced method of optimizing pages server-side is to diversify. Assets hosted on separate servers will be loaded simultaneously, offering improved performance, especially on sites heavy on content. Finally, minimizing the amount of redirects used on the site is also a good way to improve performance for free.

Third, Avoid Code Bloat

Apart from the actual coding of the site, JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets can be a source of sluggish performance. For example, a site that has to load multiple large JavaScript files and CSS will have sub-par performance, especially when compared to a site that has well-written, optimized code. This sounds like a lot, but it’s actually quite easy. For starters, if you are using JavaScript for your website, make sure all the code is concentrated in a single file rather than several. That way the browser only has to load one instead of several. The same is true for CSS. Not only will a single file allow for a consistent website style, but will cut down loading times. Not only that, it also makes troubleshooting errors much easier.

Fourth, Evaluate Performance

Of course, all of these efforts will be in vain if you don’t have the ability to objectively gauge the performance of the website. Luckily, there is plenty of software on the market for this kind of analysis. Google’s PageSpeed and Yahoo!’s YSlow plugins for Firebug are excellent tools for this purpose. Not only do they provide data on the performance of the site, they will also evaluate it, grading the components using school grades and provide suggestions on how to improve the site.

via Web Design Blog, Web Designer Resources