I feel the need … the need for SPEED!

This website (www.spjeff.com) has been overhauled to boost performance.  Doing so allowed me to learn a lot about optimization technique, tools, and limitations.  Hopefully others will find this post helpful.  I began this exercise after noticing the site loaded very slowly.  Full page load time without local browser cache was over 20 seconds.  The “shared” hosting plan I had slowed over the years and became unbearable.  So I switched to www.siteground.com with more hardware allocation.



Performance Boosting Steps

  1. Faster Hardware – Self explanatory.  Access to efficient servers hosted in a modern data center are a must.
  2. Server Cache – Most CMS (content management systems) store raw user content in a database (SharePoint – MSSQL, WordPress – MySQL, etc).   Frequently viewed database objects can be copied locally (cached) to reduce load times by reducing round trips to the backend database.
  3. Local Cache – Web browser supporting local client caching.  Images, style sheets, and JavaScript are all great candidates for local caching.  Expiration dates of a few days to a few weeks can work well for files which change less frequently.
  4. Optimize Images – This is easy to overlook, yet powerful.  Merely compressing the binary image data can yield big network traffic savings.   Several of my images compressed to 20% of the original size with no loss of quality.  Check out http://www.imageoptimizer.net/  for details.
  5. Compress Content – Network traffic for text content like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript  can be compressed using GZIP or similar protocols.   Check out http://www.gidnetwork.com/tools/gzip-test.php to test a given URL.
  6. Merge Files – Lots of small files will slow page load time.  Consolidating JavaScript, CSS, and image files can be a great way to reduce the HTTP network transactions and reduce the number of round trips.   However, many CMS systems consistent of various plug-ins which come with their own files.   Plug-ins are often upgraded independently of each other which increases the need for many small files.   There is a balancing act to manage and it’s best to review the configuration of your site in detail.








Diminishing marginal returns apply to optimization.  Mobile devices and wireless data in particular benefit greatly from optimization.  Yet only so much time can be given to tweaking minor details in pursuit of ever smaller speed gains.   Most web pages haven’t been optimized at all.  Taking even just a little time to review available performance tweaks can yield big gains for your site visitors. 

Overall, I was able to reduce my page weight by 65% and cut load time to less than half.   Definitely time well spent.  Smile



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