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  • The Quest for Speed

    by on December 3, 2009 25 Comments

    iStock_000003253552LargeFor web applications today speed is not just about bragging rights, instead speed is a deciding factor in: reducing the learning curve of applications for end users, increasing the adoption rate, improving conversion rates, growing time on site and numerous other metrics for web sites.

    Historically, search engine companies (Google, Yahoo!, Bing etc) are among the original innovating web application developers and their success has afforded them with the resources to learn how to scale applications. In particular, Google has been working diligently (as does Yahoo) to contribute to the web developer community, increasing awareness and providing research about creating good experiences with web content. Today they’ve even released their solution to the performance issues surround Domain Name Service (DNS) and with their Google Public DNS project. DNS is the process by which your browser determines which server to query for the pages you request.

    It has probably always played a role in the background in some way, but is now a talking point — the speed of a web site is instrumental in how Google determines the rank of your site in search engine result pages. While there may be numerous opinions on the topic, the fact remains that speed is vital to a positive user experience and a healthy eco-system, so those facts make any opinions quite moot. You can now find Google’s opinion on the speed of your web site in Webmaster Tools, in the site performance section (currently still a labs feature). Take a look and see how your site compares to the rest of the web.

    WordPress is an extremely popular open source content management system and publishing tool. I contribute to the performance of WordPress via W3 Total Cache, which (from a bird’s eye view) accomplishes a number of goals:

    • Make servers more green by reducing the resource demands in delivering dynamic content
    • Reduce load time of sites, thereby providing the benefits stated above
    • Allow bloggers and other WordPress plugin developers to continue to focus on producing content and easy-to-deploy functionality for WordPress without having to worry about performance penalties / implementation issues or keep an eye on their WordPress installation.

    The action items to implement the largest performance wins for web applications traditionally include the following:

    • Progressive render: It’s imperative that CSS and JavaScript are properly embedded into web pages to ensure that the user begins to see content displaying as quickly as possible. The term progressive render literally implies that the web site loads instantly with a water fall effect rather than showing users a white page for several seconds and drawing the entire page at once. Proper use of this technique is realized through careful placement and embedding of CSS and JavaScript in the head of the page. As well as loading JavaScript near the end of the page in addition to using pipelining techniques to overcome download limitations in some browsers.
    • Reduce HTTP Transactions: This technique takes shape in 3 ways:

      HTTP Compression: the smaller the file, the faster it can be generated, sent and rendered or executed. Gzip or deflate compression is supported by modern browsers and is one of the most fundamental performance wins in web development.

      Minification: the staple technique of, and for years and instrumental in the “1 second page loads” they appear to have. Combining CSS and JavaScripts respectively, removing white space, comments, line breaks and even inserting CSS and JavaScript inline in the document, (if also compressed) ensures that the least amount of data is sent to the browser.

      Image Sprites: combining multiple images into a single file and using CSS to manipulate them on the page. Since your browser will download a larger image faster (in practice) than numerous smaller images, this is a real performance win when coupled with browser-side caching.

      These methods make sure that there are fewer “calls” to a web server to deliver a page. When it comes to performance, less is more.

    • Caching: Cache everything and cache often! Words to that effect are the mantra of hard core web developers. This technique includes setting expiration time for CSS, JavaScript, and images etc that are downloaded from your site. It also includes, caching pages, database queries, RSS feeds and so forth so that your web server spends time sending content instead of generating it. Don’t forget that Content Delivery Networks are also a very important type of cache that significantly reduce the latency of content intended for a global audience.

    Will it ever be enough? Doubtful. And there’s much more to it than the few items I listed. Google is already more than kicking tires on their new take on how web enabled devices should communicate. A very ambitious endeavor, but for Google who is bold enough to deploy HTML5 on their main property (, I’d have to say that they’ve got the resources to see it through. And as always it’s easy to see the wake of Steve Souders’ contributions to web application performance – no doubt a vital contributor at Google (the page speed Firefox plugin?), formerly of Yahoo fame.

    The takeaway is this, on the horizon, there will be more talk about the performance of your site and that in turn will raise the bar and awareness in the open source community about how to make high performance applications, the reasons to do it and with which tools to measure those results.

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 at 5:52 am and is filed under Articles, Technology, User Interface / Experience, Web Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

  • by poorbritney
    on January 6, 2010 at 1:28 am

    How can this article have no comments?! It's fabulous.

  • Well, I love that Google has taken the initiative to promote a 'faster web'. The new google search alogorithim will now factor in 'site speed' in a site's overall rankings in the search engines. This is sure to get webmasters off their lazy butts to start optimizing and gzip'ing their sites. All of this should result in a better 'web' experience for everyone.

  • by Alex Crockett
    on January 20, 2010 at 6:42 am

    Great post. I use W3 Cache on my wordpress blog and it has helped enormously. By lack of careful planning and some badly written code my site has been slow to load. However, I do think the plugin has helped me enormously. Thank you!

    I had been reading last year about the importance of site performance in rankings and it was a wake up call for me. Also, there is ni undermining the user experience. Makes perfect sense.

  • Great article and a word to the wise before the Google hammer drops on the slow loading sites out there. I would bet in six months there will be a rush to find the experts on site loading. I have installed W3 Cache but am sure I will have to do more.

  • by Terence
    on March 7, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    I noticed that one of my sites was becoming sluggish at loading so I installed the W3 Total Cache plugin and I can see a big difference in the speed. I will see if it improves my bounce rate as people tend to click away if a site takes too long to load.

  • thanks..
    i can t see my Database Caching 21/39 queries why

    my page caching is

    Minified using disk
    Page Caching using disk (enhanced)
    Database Caching using disk
    Served from: xxxx @ 2010-03-14 10:42:23 –>

    you can see my page <a
    href="; title="film izle">film izle

  • by Tracy@H. Relaxation
    on March 22, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Just want to say thank you for your fantastic W3 Total Cache plugin. We're planning on some sizable traffic increases in the next few of months and it (including using a cdn) is going to be a part of our plan for making things nice and speedy!

  • by AsfaltDizajn
    on April 13, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Your W3 Total Cache plugin really does a great job. I am, usually, a cautious person when it comes to my external links but you have, most definitely, earned your place on my blog. Thank you for this great plugin and all the best.

  • by Tech Review Blog
    on April 30, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    This is a great plugin. Fortunately, I didn't know anything about W3 Total Cache plugin. In the past two of my websites almost crashed the server and the speed was really slow. With this amazing plugin the situation was changed and my WordPress websites works very fast ! Thank you for the great job !

  • by Internet Explorer
    on June 12, 2010 at 10:54 am

    With this great plugin installed on my websites, Google indexes my website faster, the SERPs results are better and the users feedback becomes positive. I compared two new websites, one of them with this plugin installed. The SERPs for this site are truly better, compared with the website without plugin.

    The speed is a real factor in SERPs positioning and W3 total cache plugin is a great weapon in this fight. Thank you for this amazing tool !

  • by Rob McCance
    on September 30, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Using your w3c plugin on one of my sites and it’s super fast. Love it, thank you!

  • by referencement
    on November 23, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Merci pour cet article qui est vraiment d’actualité et met bien en valeur tous les enjeux ! nice !

  • by ???????? ????
    on February 4, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I probable can use it after some adjustments but speed is important

  • I have tested my site with Firebug and ySlow Firefox extensions and i have started to use GZIP compression and a CDN for images. After these changes the speed was with 40% better in Google Webmaster Tools.

  • by Nikos Kalogridis
    on April 11, 2011 at 9:23 am

    I managed to get great loading time for both first time visits and also cahed ones. Using YSlow and pagespeed is a MUST for any web developer

  • by AstroGremlin
    on August 12, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Speed is terribly important for readers sticking around long enough to see content. You can see how fast your page is loading and several other diagnostics on my link. above. Tip: try a page loading test before you cache, and then again after you cache. You will be convinced that a caching program is a must!

  • It also helps if you remove the overkill of code in your wordpress/theme. After that work, my sitespeed was growing al lot.

  • by Liverpool Music
    on November 19, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I use w3c Total Cache along with MaxCDN and Cloudflare. I decreased my image heavy WordPress blog load time by nearly 9 seconds! Great article by the way, you should look into Cloudflare…

  • I have it already installed my site but should wait till its fully finished and then make it active as you said on your video, my webserver is nginx too.

  • by nachrichten aktuell deutschland
    on July 3, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Agreed. Love it!

  • I also use the fabulous w3 total cache with MaxCDN and also cloudflare, and i had a big improvement in performance – fewer requests, server load, speed, less bandwidth.- Unfortunately im not a programmer and i do not have the knowledge needed to implement and create the script Image Sprites, I am sure would give a tremendous boost to my site.
    By the way, thanks for the tip, is very good.

  • Point accepted! To increase the traffic is a key of advancing the status so push it to forward the suggested options are very effective. I guess it's applicable easily. Thanks for a worthy content to improve the quality of bloggers' contents.

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