Given that most websites today exceed two megabytes, content optimization is more important than ever. This is particularly true for mobile users who may experience sluggish cellular data speeds due to network limitations or data throttling. As websites grow in size and complexity, developers need to be aware of content optimization tools and methods that help them improve website performance.
When it comes to optimizing website content, there are plenty of tools in the developer’s toolbox, including paid services and simple methods that quickly improve page speed. To better understand what affects your website’s load times, feel free to sign up for SolarWinds® Pingdom® website monitoring. And when you find out more, check out this list of options to consider that will help you make your site a lot faster.
1. A Content Delivery Network
CDNs (content delivery networks) make your site more readily available to visitors from around the world by serving content from multiple locations.
A CDN uses a network of synchronized local servers (edge servers) that decrease the physical distance each client web request travels, making your site faster to load. For instance, if a New York user’s request is answered by a CDN server located in New York, the round trip and subsequent data downloads are much quicker than serving from your data center in London.
As an added bonus, the CDN service also provides added resilience. If your primary data center goes offline, requests for static content will continue to be served by the content delivery network’s edge sites.
Which CDN is a good fit in your case? Read our guide on choosing a CDN, where we compared CloudFront, Cloudflare, Fastly, and Google Cloud.
2. HTTP Reverse Proxies (Web Application Accelerators)
Similar to a CDN, web application accelerators provide a localized caching function to increase the speed with which the content is loaded. But where CDN edge servers are best suited for static content, HTTP reverse proxies are designed to serve dynamic content.
As with CDNs, content is served to users from their nearest edge server, reducing the roundtrip time for each request. Our tests with the Varnish Cache system realized page load time savings of more than 10%.
3. Gzip Compression (or similar)
‘Smaller file sizes equal faster network transfer times’ is a basic computing principle, so it makes sense to shrink the size of your webpages and assets as much as possible.
The first step is to optimize web content, the second to compress it. Using gzip (available in popular web servers like Apache and Nginx as standard) you can compress webpages on-the-fly, transfer the zipped archive to the client’s browser, and re-assemble once received.
Compressing content using gzip is nearly 66% faster than requesting and downloading “raw” assets. Just make sure to include the Vary HTTP response header to ensure CDNs serve compressed content correctly.
Learn more on whether or not HTTP/2 will make your site faster.
5. Code Minifiers
Minification focuses on getting rid of unnecessary characters from code, including white space, new line characters, comments, and others which aren’t required to execute the code. This technique reduces the overall size of the page without changing any of the functionalities.
6. Browser Cache
Browser cache is also an important part of your website optimization strategy. By leveraging browser cache on your user’s computer, you can improve the performance of subsequent pages your website visitor lands on.
Items stored in the browser cache can be retrieved locally for future website requests. This means that common recurring elements like your logo are called from the cache, rather than making a slower request to your website server.
7. Web Performance Monitoring
Without accurate metrics to refer to, your content optimization strategy is just a “best guess” exercise. You need a reliable way to assess which improvements work and monitor how web performance changes over time.
A website monitoring solution will give you an overview of what most affects web performance in your case, helping you make informed decisions on content optimization. You can set up website status so that the correct person gets notified as soon as there’s an outage, or other website issues happen. And to analyze how performance affects your users, you can use synthetic monitoring as well as real user monitoring.
Enhancing Your Strategy With Content Optimization Tools
The tools outlined here are just enough to get started with optimizing web content. They will help you establish a strongly performing website and provide a platform from which to continue shaving additional hundredths of a second off every resource request.