One of the most important things for the Homestead webmaster to keep in mind when designing sites is that to be successful a page needs to load fast. The impatient web viewing public will not sit around and wait for a page to load – count on it! Search Engines have an easier time of indexing a page if it isn’t bloated with code – what does that mean? Every item on a web page is rendered into code – every image, every piece of text, every photo, every border, etc. The SE’s have to parse through all the code and find the relevant information they need to properly index a site.
The general rule of thumb is that you have 10-15 seconds to get the attention of the viewer. The 30kb rule should remain a benchmark – a page that weighs 30kb will load within the 10-15 seconds over a typical modem connection. Even with the advent of cable, wireless and DSL there are still many, many viewers still using dial-up and you need to keep them in mind when you design your pages.
As with all things, there is no absolute. The secret is in using good judgement when adding anything to a page and keeping in mind that a little goes a long ways. So what can you do to minimize the weight of a page making it both viewer and search engine friendly?
Load time isn’t just due to the weight of the page
Page weight is just one factor involved in how fast (or slow) a page will load. Keeping page weight under control is important so that it doesn’t contribute to a potential slow load.
What factors determine the speed at which a page loads?
- The type of connection and dependability of the viewer’s service provider (dial up, DSL, etc.)
- How much traffic on the Internet there is at the time the page is requested
- How the web server is performing that viewers get the page from
- The dependability and speed of that particular server’s connection to the Internet
- The viewer’s computer – old and slow or new and fast
- The weight of the page
Use text instead of images
It doesn’t take long for a page to get seriously heavy when images are used in lieu of text. Textual content is extremely important to a web site’s success and should be the main portion of a page using images sparingly. Obviously images are important on sites that are promoting products, but even these can be whittled down in size by using a small, optimized thumbnail image with a link to a larger view and making more pages with less on them.
Optimizing images is critical to keeping the page weight under control. Reducing the dimensions (length x width) of an image does NOT make it weigh less. There are many programs, such as Easy Thumbnails available that can be used to reduce the resolution (weight) of an image.
Repeating an image will also help with reduction of page weight. Images only need to load one time. As an example, your logo (if it is an image) will load on the first page a viewer lands on – from that point it is stored in the browser’s cache and won’t reload every time a new page is chosen.
Avoid gizmos and gadgets
The saying, “if it doesn’t add value, don’t use it” really applies when it comes to the countless gadgets available in the Homestead SiteBuilder program and on the Web. The majority of these are simply ‘fillers’ and add nothing to a page but weight and the potential to irritate your viewers. Also, anything that moves can be a distraction to your visitor and removes their focus from the important aspects of the page. In most instances they also cheapen the appearance of a site. Remember that your visitors are on your site for information or a product or service.
Some things to avoid:
- Guest books on professional sites
- Add to Favorites
- The Link to Me button
- Moving text – includes scrolling, bouncing, fading, etc.
- Recommend this site
- Music on sites unrelated to music (or be sure there is a way to turn it off)
- Cutesy clip art
- Animated anything
- Hit counters
- Date, Time element
Fast loading pages that are clean and uncluttered make visiting your site a pleasant experience for viewers and the more apt they are to return. The easier it is the more likely they are to stay and shop or utilize your service. Pages that load quickly also make it simpler for the Search Engines to crawl and index your site appropriately.