With ’s confirmation that the time taken to load a web page is now a ranking factor web developers and designers have been prompted to sit up and pay renewed attention site performance. Here are just a handful of factors that todays web developers need to keep in mind.

Most web pages are made up of a collection of elements including javascript files, CSS, images and database delivered content. Minimising the number of elements and therefore the number of HTTP requests necessary to render a page is crucial for fast page load times.

It is well known that about 80% of the end users response time is spent waiting for a page to download completely. This waiting time is know to cause visitors to leave an ecommerce site and visit a faster loading competitor. This time can be reduced by using a content delivery network to serve up the static content, such as javascript and css files. A content delivery network is simply a collection of servers setup to efficiently deliver content to end users.

As web designs become increasing complex, richer and more engaging to the end user they need an ever increasing number of components in order to render, such as Flash and javascript. When a site is first visited a number of HTTP requests will be made to download all of these elements. These can be minimised on subsequent visits by caching and this can be controlled using the Expires header. This is commonly used for images but can be effectively used for all components including Flash and stylesheets.

Compression is another technique that every web developer should be using. GZIP is supported by around 90% of todays browsers and it can reduce the size of many elements by as much as 70%.

There are lots of additional techniques that are both good for search engine optimisation of web pages and will also improve the user experience. For example: stylesheets should be located at the top of pages and scripts at the bottom; both javascript and CSS files should be minified; and javascript and CSS should be in external files; also, reducing the number of DNS lookups and redirects is always a good idea. Good luck.

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