July 2001 Newsletter

6 Tips To Make Your Website Faster!

**** Quick Clicks:

The Myth of Broadband - Some web designers think everyone has a high speed connection, and design websites to suit. This article discusses the current reality. (article no longer available)

[link no longer available]
Economist: "The greatest impact of the Internet looks like being found in old firms, not new ones" "GE now does more business on its own private online marketplace than do all the public B2B exchanges put together."

**** The Getting Speced Perspective:

One of the consistent complaints design professionals voice to me is about very slow websites. Here are 6 tips to make your website faster - all of these are used by 4specs. Your web consultants should be able to implement these for you.

Tip 1 - No Splash Pages
Splash pages are the dumb animation starting page found on too many websites. Use of Flash to create excessive animation falls in this category. This was covered in an earlier newsletter on splash pages.

Tip 2 - Use Text rather than Images for Navigation
I have a fast cable modem connection. It frustrates me when I see nothing on the screen and spot on the bottom of the browser - "42 more images to download." Convert your navigation links from images to text. The New York Times converted to text earlier this year and the NY Times still looks great.

Tip 3 - Put your images on a diet.
Many images are larger (more bytes) than needed. I use [link no longer works] to compress all the images on 4specs to keep the site fast. One advertiser gave me permission to show his primary image and how it could be shrunk - from 105,000 bytes to 16,000 - with almost no visual changes. This means that this home page could be loaded 30 seconds faster! Take a look at the images and see the differences. [11/2010 - I now use Photoshop Elements - $99 or so]

Tip 4 - Set Expire Dates on Images
If you have repeat users, by setting an expire date on an image, the visitor's browser will not download or even check the validity of the image. Google is very fast - all of their images have a 25 year expire, and I copied their expire example on 4specs. On an Apache server this is very easy - three lines of code:
     ExpiresActive On
     ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 25 years"
     ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 25 years"

Tip 5 - Split up large Tables
On pages using a large table for layout, split up the page into multiple tables. The top table will load and DISPLAY first, while the second table loads. The viewer is impressed with the fast display. Take a look at one of our pages - note that the top displays first. You can see the table split where the gray separation line is doubled between Fib-R-Door and Mifab:
(Page removed)

Tip 6 - Use Zipped Html
85% of the 4specs visitors use Internet Explorer 5 or higher. IE5 and Netscape 4.7 will transparently unzip html sent to them. As far as I can determine, there is no way for the user to detect this, other than being wowed by the site's performance. A typical 4specs page starts as 20,000 bytes and is compressed to about 5,500 bytes. This will speed up your website. If you are using a T-1 line from your office, this will significantly reduce the usage of the T-1 and ultimately save significant money.

There are several ways to do this depending upon the server and operating system used. If you are on an Apache server I can provide your designer with the code. With PHP4, the gzipping can be done with dynamic pages. Here is an article from WebReference [link no longer available] with additional information.

Assuming your website has the data an architect wants, faster sites are better and will cost less to operate in the future. I hope these ideas help you further develop your website.


Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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