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Speed Optimization

Speed of your web site -- it is THE most important aspect of your site hands down. Why? Regardless of your sizzling ad copy, your stunning graphics and your world changing products, the surfer may never see it. If your site takes too long to load, the visitor will hit the BACK button and they are gone -- for good. This is not fantasy, this is fact.

Zona Research estimated that slow web site downloads can be responsible for up to $4 billion dollars of e-Commerce lost revenue. Ouch.

Web Facts from Zona Research:

  • 44.1 million people in the US shop online
  • 37.5 million people will become online shoppers in the next 12 months
  • Shoppers with slow 14.4kb modems represent a loss in e-Commerce sales of $73 million each month
  • $58 million a month in e-Commerce sales is lost each month due to Web page loading failures
  • $3 million is at risk monthly in the securities trading industry due to unacceptable download times
  • More than $2.8 million is at risk monthly in the online travel and tourism industry due to unacceptable download times.

Okay, those are stunning facts, to say the least. And here we are at the brink of the holiday shopping season and many sites out there will lose sales due to slow loading web sites.

So how long should your site take to load to avoid costly losses in revenue? According to Zona Research, 8 seconds! We aren't talking about a full load here...just the time it takes for your site to have readable text appear on the screen. We highly suggest testing on a 28.8kps connection -- since it is still the standard connection for web shoppers out there.

When it comes to determining "speed" on the web, we need to be in agreement how a site's "speed" is measured. You may have heard others state your page should be 40k or less...meaning the file size of your html file and all the graphics which load should not exceed 40k. This may seem like a good measuring stick, but what if you host your site on GeoCities and I host mine with Exodus. Obviously, your free site at GeoCities is not placed on the same fast server that mine is at Exodus, which I pay a premium for. So, since all servers are not equal in speed on the Internet, having a "universal page size method" is unrealistic.

In this tutorial, we will use two websites to show how a poor design and layout can affect your sales. The site we will use is UMI Publications (now defunct - big surprise).

So, what can you do to increase the loading speed your site?

Your first step is to find out how fast your site is.

Best place to check that, since we are concerned about traffic from Google is Google itself. Google Speed Test. You can also use GTMetrix or Pingdom too. There are many components which affect the load time of your site: the HTML code, graphics, JavaScript, Java Applets, Counters, ad banners, plug-ins and backgrounds.

Creating a gorgeous site is not overly difficult, but creating a gorgeous, fast-loading site takes pure talent.

Other Resources:

NetMechanic
They offer many of the same services as Web Site Garage, but do not match WSG's accuracy. They do, however, offer a free one-month trial.

We cover the most vital adjustments later in the tutorial.

Second, take a look at what you can do to speed up your site from what WebSiteGarage's diagnostics report displays. For our site, http://www.webmarketingnow.com our total file size is 59k, which would fail the 40k test previously mentioned. However, our site loads in 19 seconds, which passes the 20 seconds or less test.

This is why it is vital to have your web site stored on a fast web server -- which is also reliable.

WebSiteGarage will inform you of your total web page size. You can obtain the information from the "Load Time" link. It will report the total objects on your page and the total size. The total size takes into account the HTML code, graphics, Java Applets, etc. WebSiteGarage will then give you a table of every object and the associated file size. If your total file size is excessive and you have numerous graphics, often, your best course of action is deleting some graphics.

WebSiteGarage recommends using a product called "GIF Lube" but we don't recommend that you use it. We have done extensive testing and found that it fails in many important areas, including keeping the integrity of the graphic. The last thing you want to lose is the quality of your graphic. See Step Four for our recommendation.

In our examples, UMI has a total file size of over 117k and 22 graphics loading. By cutting their graphics down to 10 and their page size in half, they could very well be in the 20 second load-time range.

Now IDM is more of an extreme case. Their file size is over 300k, but they only have 8 graphics on their page. The culprit? A logo which is 233k in size! There is absolutely no excuse for a logo that size -- on any website. We optimized this graphic, using a very simple tool and reduced the size by 94%!

Note: Since we have ad banners loading at the bottom of our pages, if you run our site through Website Garage your results may be different.

Third, remove any unnecessary GIF animation, scrolling marquees, Java applets, etc. Many cause browsers to crash and do little, if anything, for navigation -- all they do is hog bandwidth.

Tip: If it doesn't help sell your product or service -- don't use it.

In our example, IDM had that HUGE graphic and the main problem of the file size was the animation. By removing the animation, the graphic is reduced to 12k.

By removing unnecessary "flashy" additions to your site, you can decrease the load time by as much as 50% or more. Consider that many web surfers will abandon your site because of slow load times, and you now have some real motivation to fix your site.

Was that animation really worth a lost sale? How many sales have you achieved because of your animation? How many sales have you lost because of it?

We hope you now see web animation in a different light.

Fourth, optimize your graphics. Web graphics are created with a 256 color palette. If you only use 3 or 4 colors, over 250 colors remain in the palette that you aren't using. All they are doing is taking up space.

You can remove these with a sophisticated graphics program like Fireworks from Macromedia, or you can take the easy route and get a program like GIFWizard. Often, you can reduce your graphics by 25% without sacrificing image quality.

We will show you an example of how powerful optimizing your graphics can be. Below are two copies of IDM's logo.

The Original Graphic 233k

The Optimized Graphic 12k

Optimizing your graphics and lowering the total file size will not only make your web site load faster, you will also be able to retain more customers. Also, many web hosting company bill you by storage space. By using less space, you save on hosting fees.

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Check back each month as we add a new tutorial to help you better succeed on the web.