Keep Download Times Down to The Very Minimum
How fast should your website load? There is no best download time to try and reach – basically you need to try and download your page as fast as possible!
Some sites that require a lot of photography or virtual tours can be excused for slow download times and people will blame their network connection. Most sites however don’t have this luxury.
What is the longest time someone will wait for your site to load?
Recent (2007) qualitative research by Akamai revealed and measured usersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ dwindling patience with websites that take time to show up. It found 75% of the 1,058 people asked would not return to websites that took longer than four seconds to load.
The time it took a site to appear on screen came second to high prices and shipping costs in the list of shoppersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ pet-hates, the research revealed.
Akamai consulted those who shop regularly online to find out what they like and dislike about e-tailing sites. About half of mature net-shoppers – who have been buying online for more than two years or who spend more than $1,500 (Ã‚£788) a year online – ranked page-loading time as a priority.
It found that one-third of those questioned abandon sites that take time to load, are hard to navigate or take too long to handle the checkout process.
The four-second threshold is half the time previous research, conducted during the early days of the web-shopping boom, suggested that shoppers would wait for a site to finish loading.
To make matters worse, the research found that the experience shoppers have on a retail site colours their entire view of the company behind it.
About 30% of those responding said they formed a Ã¢â‚¬Å“negative perceptionÃ¢â‚¬ of a company with a badly put-together site or would tell their family and friends about their experiences.
Further research by Akamai found that almost half of the online stores in the list of the top 500 US shopping sites take longer than the four-second threshold to finish loading.
The survey questioned 1,058 net shoppers during the first six months of 2006. Consultants Jupiter Research did the survey for Akamai.
Download speeds and accessibility
Bandwidth or the capacity to send and receive data is an important consideration when designing an electronic document for distribution over the Internet. It is important that the link to the Internet (from the computer serving the pages to customers) has sufficient capacity to be able to handle the expected load.
Otherwise, the response to users will be unsatisfactorily slow.
Most people today connect to the Internet over a phone line, typically using a modem with a speed of 28.8 to 56 kilobits per second (kbit/s).
This “narrowband” communication requires user to wait while a dial-up connection is made before they can access the Internet, and means that Internet use when connected is slow.
Broadband services offer significantly faster data rates, enabling the delivery of services, such as high speed Internet access. These may also be “always on” connections to the Internet.
However, what looks great and downloads quickly within the confines of the Web manager’s high-speed network connection does not necessarily work as well for the average user of the Internet. It is probably best to presume that your user is connected through a 28.8 kbit/s modem.
Optimise your images!!
- Remember to optimise your images – the most important thing you can do to decrease download times. Optimise just means save for web’ in Photoshop, for example. Keep JPGs for photographs and Gifs for images with large blocks of flat colour.
- There are several ways to optimize images and here’s one if you have Adobe Photoshop. For your JPGs, PNGs, and other files you may have that arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t GIFs, open them in Adobe Photoshop and simply go to File > Save For Web and reduce the image to 70% (JPG) You probably won’t even notice the difference in quality but you’ll have nearly halved the image size.
Load background images via external CSS
- It’s possible to present images as part of the background, called up through external CSS stylesheets.
- Browsers download background images after everything else. By using this technique, your text will load instantaneously and your site users can freely roam about the page while your 50kb fancy image downloads.
- The ‘link’ is always added to the Head Section i.e anywhere between the <head> and the </head> , add this code :<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=”your-css.css”>
Minimise white space, line returns and comment tags
- Every single letter or space in your HTML code takes up one byte. It doesn’t sound like much but it all adds up. We’ve found that by working through your page source and eliminating unnecessary white space and comments, you can shave off up to, or even over (if your HTML is really inefficient) 10% of its file size.
Remove unnecessary META tags and META content
- The most important tags for search engine optimisation are the keywords and description tags, although due to mass abuse they’ve lost a lot of importance in recent times. When using these META tags try to keep the content for each under 200 characters – anything more increases the size of your pages. Lengthy META tags are not good for search engines anyway because they dilute your keywords.
UK Government recommendations:
‘Documents published on the web need to be kept small, be linked efficiently and contain only the data and graphics that they require’.
Guidelines for UK Government websites
Illustrated handbook for Web management teams