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Friday, August 20, 2010

Daily Feed Issue #3: Speed and page structure

I'll be away until Sunday. Since I'm free at the airport, I'll advance post up some interesting sharing. Will be up whole week :D Hope it helps you in gaining the traffic you always wanted ;)

Welcome to Friday's issue of The Daily Feed. It's actually just past midnight here on Saturday the 14th. We have a policy of locking ourselves in a padded cell to avoid any mishaps on Friday the 13th, and I just got out and rushed to my desk to get this mail off to you.

Today we're going to chat about the page structure on your blog or website and how it affects load times. If you're a new subscriber (we've had over 2000 new subscriptions today) we've spent this week focusing on blog and website speed, why it's important and how to measure it.

To summarize our story thus far:
  • Google proved that speed is possibly the most important thing when it comes to user satisfaction on your site. New visitors will stay on your site and existing visitors will keep coming back.
  • The most important thing to have a fast blog or website is to minimize the number of page components (images, flash, scripts, stylesheets). Loading lots of components is a speed killer, especially for people geographically far away from your blog's web server.
  • The second most important thing is page size. Make sure all images and flash apps are small. Try to get your page size under 500K total.
  • You can very effectively measure page performance with YSlow and the developer tools in Firebug, Chrome (my favorite) and Safari.
One last comment about user satisfaction: What irritates you the most on the web? When you search for something on Google, you see a search result that you just KNOW has what you want, and you click it only to see a blank page or half a page that hangs for 10...15...30 seconds while it's waiting for something to load. It helps to think like a visitor to your own website. You'd like your site to be fast and the content to be helpful. (more about content next week)

Enough preaching, lets chat about page structure and how it affects performance...

Use external scripts and CSS

Avoid embedding CSS and Javascript in your page. When you see SCRIPT or STYLE tags in your HTML source with huge chunks of data between them, that's bad. Instead, put the scripts in external files and link to those files with a src= or href= attribute. This structure will allow your browser to cache the scripts so that it doesn't have to load them for for every page on your site.

Use tables sparingly

Most tables aren't displayed by a browser until the browser has loaded the closing table tag in your HTML. Small tables are OK because they load quickly but if your entire site is one big table you should do a few tests to make sure you're not preventing your page from displaying as it loads.

Put external scripts that don't display anything at the bottom of your page

If you have scripts like the private version of Feedjit Pro that doesn't display anything but lets you watch your traffic in real-time, put it at the end of your web page. That way the browser can load the page elements that the user needs to see first and then load the invisible elements on the page last.

Avoid having too much javascript executing on your page

Flash animation on your page will generally execute quickly and won't slow down page loading. But javascript animation that draws floating boxes that move, snowflakes that rain down or anything else that constantly moves will slow down your page.

Advanced tip

If you're a developer and are adding javascript to your website or building full blown javascript applications, make sure you profile (measure the speed of) your javascript execution. Chrome, IE and Safari have built in profilers but Chrome is leading the way as usual. Just open Chrome developer tools and click profile to see where your script is spending the most time executing.

That's all for today. If you'd like to suggest a subject for a future issue, email us atsupport@feedjit.com. Have a spectacular weekend and I'll see you again on Monday morning Seattle time when we'll be chatting about SEO and how to get traffic from the search engines.

Mark Maunder
Feedjit Founder & CEO

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