WebSite Performance Optimization – Core Concepts
When it comes to performance tuning a site, there are a multitude of possible optimizations so I thought it best to distill these down to several core concepts.
Note that in this article I will focus solely on front-end optimizations since for most web-pages server processing typically only accounts for between 10% – 15% of the total page load.
Modern browsers allow for more files to be loaded concurrently (Chrome for example allows for six), but this is still a very powerful optimization although you should now use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to host static files. A CDN is a globally distributed network of servers which caches static files and serves these to a user from the closest physical server (or ‘edge location’). Using a CDN has the benefit of reducing the network latency in loading static files, since the site visitor will be served the static files (such a page images) from a server close to them.
Reduce The Number of Requests
In the belowexcerpt of the waterfall diagram of the page load, the yellow portion of each bar is the time taken to to download the file, the blue portion at the start is the time to open the connection to the server. Note that for the bottom three files the largest portion of the load time is opening the connection.
Reduce The Size of Files
Reducing the size of the files served to the user is an obvious and necessary step in performance optimisation. The first step is to look at the html itself – ensure there are no inline styles in the html, these are not only inefficient for development purposes but they impair performance since styles in external stylesheets are cached by the user’s browser and so do not need to be loaded on each page request.
Images files should be in an appropriate format. In general jpg files are larger and should only be used for pictures or graphics which make heavy use of gradients. A quality setting of above 80 is almost always overkill (although this may change with retina displays), typically a setting of jpg quality setting of 60-70 is the sweet spot for the quality/size trade-off. Simpler graphics such as logos or screenshots should be either gif or png formats, png is certainly the preferred format now for images of any complexity since it offers very good image quality (the screenshots in this article are in png format). The simplest page elements such as arrows, pointers, lines etc should normally be gif since this format is capable of the smallest image file sizes (note that these elements can be combined into a single larger image using CSS sprites ).