From version 8 of the Safari web browser the navigation timing API is supported. This marks the last of the major browsers to include support. It will also see navigation timing supported in iOS.
Stockholm Public Transport (Commonly known as SL) launched a new, responsive, website in May 2014. As is often the case with redesigned sites, it has received a fair amount of criticism.
Whether you have a responsive website or not, the chances are these days that you have a significant chunk of visitors accessing your site from a mobile or over a mobile network.
But how fast is your website for these mobile visitors?
No website is perfect. It’s not going to be. The pace of change within digital media is far too fast for us to reach perfection. We can though make them more effective.
People learn and adapt. We learn and adapt. We adjust and improve.
Testing and tweaking. That’s how you can improve your website. Adjusting and improving. Optimising what you’ve got.
A wise man said to me that you should aim to increase the conversion rate of your website every single month. A good goal to keep things moving.
4 areas of optimisation
The way in which you can improve your website is quite straightforward. There are four areas of website optimisation you should focus on.
All of them are interconnected and all of them affect your bottom line. They cost you money if you neglect them, they earn you money if you give them a little love and attention.
The four focus areas of optimisation are:
- Web performance optimisation
- Search engine optimisation
- Usability optimisation
- Conversion rate optimisation
Freeing up untapped potential
Everyone working with digital media and e-commerce is aware of Search Engine Optimisation. Often “optimisation” is taken to mean SEO and nothing else.
Many companies have spent a fair bit of cash over the years paying for SEO and SEM services to drive more traffic to their websites.
Increasing (relevant) traffic to your website is almost always a good thing. Unfortunately, if you’re site has poor usability or is sluggish due to poor web performance then you’ve got untapped potential.
The best way to free untapped potential is to turn your attention to your website. A good starting point is a website review.
Web performance optimisation
Start with web performance optimisation – in plain English, we’re talking about page speed. How fast the page loads and responds for your visitors in the context they use your site.
For some this context might be sat at a desktop computer connected to the internet via a high speed connections. For others it could be via a mobile telephone whilst in a moving vehicle.
After web performance, I’d tackle on-site search engine optimisation. This is where you make sure that your website is presenting the right content to search engines so that they in turn can present the right content to your potential visitors.
We need to help convince them that your page is the one they should click on amongst all the others.
Your website needs to be usable. Visitors need to be able to complete their tasks without falling over as if their shoes have been tied together. Optimising the usability of your site is your way of untying them.
The most basic (and critical) usability issues can be pinpointed quite easily. But you learn the most by testing and then analysing the behaviour of real visitors to your site. They are the ones trying to use it, not you. It’s their behaviour that counts.
Once you’ve worked our way through these three areas of optimisation, it’s time to set your focus on CRO – Conversion rate optimisation.
This is where we look at the goals of your site and the steps a visitor goes through reach them and try to make sure the highest number of people possible make it all the way to the end.
Although usability and conversion optimisation are intrinsically related and overlapping, they are different.
You could say – Usability is making sure that it’s possible for visitors to complete their tasks. Conversion optimisation is giving them the right nudges to make sure they actually do.
I’ve laid out these four areas of optimisation for you in a specific order, but you can switch the order around or run the whole lot in parallel. It’s just a matter of resources and a bit of planning!
All-in-all we’re optimising the user experience. I could have sliced this up in a few difference ways, but all-in-all if we create high quality digital experiences, both the customer and your business will be as happy as the cat who got the cream.
Take the first step in optimising your digital business: check out my website review and audit service.
How can I improve my website? Here's how you can start: http://t.co/52G7XKDE
— James Royal-Lawson (@beantin) February 20, 2013
Faster is better. There’s no arguing about it. Google likes faster pages, people like faster pages. Your 3G wireless connection loves leaner, slimmer pages. God damn, your shareholders love them too!
Website performance optimisation, like search engine optimisation – or any optimisation – is a fine art. It also follows the law of diminishing returns. The largest efficiently gains can be made from a handful of optimisations. Futher gains are possible but at an increasingly higher cost.
5 basic tips
Here are 5 practical ways that you can improve the load time of your web pages.
- Width and Height. Declare width and height on all img tags – this reduces the need for browser redrawing/reflow once images are loaded. Yes, you can set the size in CSS, but in the tag itself is marginally better and often possible for web editors to do themselves.
- Code efficiently. Both HTML and CSS. Deeply nested div tags, empty div tags and overqualified CSS-selectors make James cry. For many this will be the least practical suggestion in this list.
- Static content. Serve static content using a CDN or (for example) Amazon S3 and a separate domain (for example, I use media.t1n.se). With Amazon S3 it is very easily for any website to spread requests over 3 domains if needed. An additional advantage of a separate domain is that you can keep it cookie-free, reducing requests and bandwidth even further. Exception: serve your CSS from your main domain.
- Trim the fat! Have less stuff on your page! – Ground breaking advice I know, but it’s too easy to let your web pages become cluttered, especially with sliding banners, widgets, and other externally hosted scripts. Use ROPS to assess the cost of new features.
It goes without saying that you should be using gzip compression and sensible caching policies on your web host – if you’re not already, then it’s likely that fixing it is probably not “simple” (or unfortunately someone somewhere isn’t up to their job).
Google’s page speed analyzer which is available as an additional to the Firefox add-on Firebug gives some excellent feedback on the state of your web site, including practical tips. It also provides optimised images and compressed scripts as ready-to-download files.
Yahoo have written up best practices with regard to improving site speed. The list includes 35 different tips, and should keep you going a fair while.
Finally, this article is a great bit of further reading and gives detailed advice but written in a way that makes it accessible for more than just the front-end web developers it targets.
If you are working on a responsive website, then congratulations! Make sure website performance optimisation is a clear part of your work. It’s more important than ever in these types of websites and has a huge impact on the user experience.
If looking for ways to optimise your website feels a little beyond you, get in touch, I’d be more than happy to help you out.
5 basic (and practical) ways to make your site load faster beant.in/Xz01GQ
— James Royal-Lawson (@beantin) January 23, 2013