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Even Small Speed Gains are Important

Don’t Dismiss Good Advice Because You Think Your Readers Won’t Care—They Will

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Many web designers have learned to optimize images so that their web pages will load more quickly. But when told to do other things like remove extra tags and spaces, delete comments, combine CSS and JavaScript files, they scoff saying “network connections are so fast now, that those types of small gains are unnecessary.” But in reality, even small speed gains are important and shouldn’t be dismissed.

There are several reasons why you should consider speeding up your pages beyond just optimizing images:

  • Search engines like faster sites better than slower ones
  • Mobile users have slower connections
  • Faster sites use less bandwidth
  • And every little bit helps

Search Engines Value Fast Sites

Search engines want to provide pages that readers value, and readers value pages that load quickly. While the average reader isn’t going to care if your web page loads 30 milliseconds faster than another site, a search engine provider can measure this and rank your site slightly higher.

Consider this scenario:

  1. You have a web page about training puppies not to chew on things. You have good SEO and the content is useful and interesting.
  2. A competitor of yours has a page on training puppies not to chew as well. Their page also has good optimization and interesting and useful content.
  3. It is conceivable that your page and your competitor’s could get the same score in the search engine index.
  4. But if your page uses tables for layout it might load just a few milliseconds slower than your competitor’s page, and the search engine will give them additional points and thus they would rank above you in the search results.

Do you really want your page to lose position in search engines just because you ignored advice for speeding up your site a small amount?

Mobile Users Have Slow Connections

Customers on mobile devices, especially older phones, may have similar speed issues to people using dial-up internet connections. In fact, some estimates say that data rates on mobile phones are slower than dial-up connections.

But unlike dial-up customers, mobile users expect website to load quickly, many want the sites to load in less than 3 seconds (60% will leave after 3 seconds according to Compuware survey). A slow mobile site is a death sentence for customers—most will leave for a competitor if the page takes too long to load.

And before you say that you don’t have mobile customers, you should be aware that mobile web use is growing. And the longer you continue to ignore mobile users, the fewer users of any kind you will have. More and more people are getting mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, and people use these all the time to get information.

Bandwidth is Affected Too

Remember that many of the things you can do to optimize your pages for speed will also affect the bandwidth your pages take from your customers. And mobile customers often have bandwidth caps and throttling. So if your page takes longer to load because of its size, it can push them over the limit. This can make your site look bad. While the bandwidth caps and throttling are caused by the cell phone networks, but most customers aren’t going to associate the problems they have with a website with their cell phone network, they are going to blame the site they are on. It’s not fair, but it’s true.

While you can’t do anything about bandwidth limits or throttling, you can make sure that your pages load as quickly as possible and are as small as possible. This means optimizing the images, making sure you don’t use any extraneous HTML, and using cacheable features like sprites and external CSS and JavaScript files.

Every Little Bit Helps

Another reason to not dismiss minor speed boosts is that it all helps. It’s both additive and cumulative. For example:

Each individual optimization that you perform on individual pages combines together to help make the page download that much more quickly.

But it is also cumulative in that when you increase the speed of one part of your website, other pages will also see benefits. This is especially true when you do things like combining external style sheets and scripts.

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