Do you know how to optimize websites for speed?

It’s a question that’s hard to answer – “Do you know how to optimize websites for speed?”

Because, optimizing websites can be done pretty easy indeed, run tools like Google Pagespeed and Yahoo YSlow, and try to get a good score, and you can say, you’ve optimized your website for better performance, which is true.

I see a lot of people, selling ‘optimizations’ of a website – and they take a lot of money for it, but in general what they do, is just to run 2-3 analysis tools, and do what it says, it’s a no-brainer if you know how to use google. You get a faster website, but you can make it a lot faster. Because what web-performance is about, is really to analyse and measure what happens for the end-user. Because how can you find a performance issue, if you don’t have any way to measure it?

All that pagespeed or yslow tells you, is just general performance things, that is really easy to find out. And you can win a lot in speed by doing these steps, but it’s not really all you can do to optimize your website. Performance Optimizations is about knowing what happens to the end-user, and how the browser works.

Also when talking about web-performance, normally you say there is 80% front-end and 20% back-end – it isn’t really true, because most of the time, there’s a lot more front-end than 80% – but also it happens from time to time, that you can find more back-end time than front-end.

But the question is why? It comes down, to each specific hosting company that you use, because often the back-end time, can either be because you’ve crappy code, but I’ve seen sites that takes between 1 and 4 seconds to render, for a simple webshop – this is way to long, for just having crappy code. So it often comes down to, that either the server you’re on, lack of hardware, is not optimized properly, or contains way to many customers. The more customers, the more you need to share CPU time – and you need to share more ressources, a way to fix this is to buy high performance webhosting, normally this isn’t really cheap, because it dedicates more hardware to each customer, and they try to optimize the server a lot.

If you don’t have enough money, to move to one of those providers, often a solution, would be to have some kind of caching, where you generate static pages out of the content, which takes less time to serve. But some sites doesn’t really work, when having static pages.

So another solution, is to ask the company to look into their servers performance, this normally takes some time, and is not just a 4-5 minutes fix – if so, they just enable some kind of Litespeed cache, or Varnish, which will make your site really fast, but doesn’t really solve your problem.

So in general, my advise is, if you have a slow site, and you want to make it faster, find people that knows what they’re actually talking about, if it doesn’t help that much, spend those extra money, on buying a proper hosting, that gives you a good amount of resources, ┬áit often solves the problem, and if the company is high performance, they also often help their customers, making their site even faster, or at least tell what can speed it up.

Web-performance, doesn’t take a short amount of time, because you can’t analyse your site, and your visitors in just 1 or 2 hours, or even less, every website is different – have different customer base etc. So taking your time, finding out who your customers is, how to make the site faster for those people, can actually make you more money in the end, people want websites to load fast, if it takes 1-4 seconds in the back-end to load a site, something is wrong, ask your provider to look into it, or go ask another one, if you can test out for a few days if it loads faster there. If it does, and you care about performance, you should really make the switch.

So the key in this post, is measure your clients, find out exactly what’s happening, and optimize what you find, because nothing is the same, for every site.