Speed Up That Site

Being a web developer, I’m used to learning new things.  If I didn’t, my skills would quickly become useless as technology passed me by.  The latest new set of skills I’ve picked up on is site speed optimization.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve understood the basic principles of making your site run faster for awhile now.  Larger files means longer download times.  Images should be scaled down with sizes specified (so the browser doesn’t have to guess at the size).  JavaScript should be minified.  Unneeded code should be removed instead of just commented out.

Still, there was a lot I didn’t know how to do.  My education began with the infographic at this site.  Intrigued, I checked out HeadJS.  This is a small JavaScript library designed to load other JavaScript files.  The problem with having many JavaScript files is that they download one at a time.  This means they can become a serious drag on page load times.  HeadJS, instead, loads many script files together to that the load times drop.  I put it into place on a project at work and was amazed at how quick it became.

After HeadJS, I found a hidden (to me) gem on Google’s website: PageSpeed Insights.  Enter your URL into this tool and it will analyze your web page.  The resulting report will tell you how fast your page is (using a score from 0 to 100) and how you can make it run faster.  (There are extensions for Chrome and Firefox as well.  These are useful if your site isn’t accessible to the outside world.  For example, if you must log in to view it.)

Using this, I took the latest beta of FollowerHQ from a score of 60 to 91.  I didn’t record before and after load times, but the application certainly feels snappier.  In fact, at this point, the main drag on the site is the fact that the Twitter avatars that it loads aren’t optimized.  (This is obviously something that isn’t under my control.)

I’m going to turn this tool loose on TechyDad.com and TheAngelForever.com next.  Using the recommendations here, I should be able to get the two blogs running much faster.

What steps have you taken to ensure that your blog or other website is running as fast as possible?