10 Ways to Speed Up Your Sluggish Website

This was posted on June 29th, 2015

 

sluggish-website

It’s going to be the hottest week of the year so far here in the UK, with temperatures predicted to hit the mid-30s in celsius. The hot weather makes many of us feel slow and sluggish, but we’ll only have to worry about that for a week or so. If your website’s feeling the same way, cooling temperatures won’t do it any good.

Although internet speeds are at their highest of all time, many websites are still slow to load, particularly on mobile internet connections (and, let’s face it, these are becoming more and more popular ways to connect to the internet all the time). With the popularity of mobile internet growing and growing, it’s never been more important to ensure that your website loads quickly. And let’s not forget, many users in rural areas still have slow internet speeds so keeping your website slick and quick is vital.

Here are ten ways to help your slow, sluggish website feel a little better about itself:

1. Keep HTTP requests to a minimum

If you’re including Flash, CSS, JavaScript and other HTML head elements in your website, these all need to be loaded before the main body of the page. The result is the end user will sit looking at a blank white screen before they see any content, which is less than ideal. Getting rid of redundant technologies and streamlining the ones you need will speed things up no end.

2. Look at your server’s response time

It could well be that you need to move to a new hosting provider or website management company. If the server your website is hosted on is slow, there’s not much you can do about it directly other than move providers. However, there are some steps you can take, and websites such as Yslow can help you to speed up server response times and keep your site slick.

3. Compress images and other elements

Yes, image compression is still an issue. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that smart compression is key here, as many users now have retina screens or high-definition displays which will show up any loss in quality on an image. This could paint your company in a negative light, so you’ll need to strike a compromise on this issue. Even web pages can be compressed using Gzip, which can reduce the download time of your web pages by around 70%.

4. Enable caching

If you don’t change or update your website on a regular basis, allowing elements of your website to be cached can speed things up no end. Effectively, elements of the site will be stored locally on the user’s computer, making them load fare more quickly than having to download them each time even when they haven’t changed. For unchanging elements like CSS, JavaScript and PDFs, this is a vital tweak to make.

5. Optimise your code

The code that makes up a website can often become bloated, with redundant lines, duplication and even unnecessary line breaks and indentation. Keeping your code lean and clean will ensure that it can be loaded much more quickly and reduce the amount of time your potential customer sits staring at a white screen.

6. Use images properly

For example, if you need a 400x200px image on your website, and you’ve found an ideal one which is 4,000×2,000px, it can be tempting to upload that and set the image width to 400px. What then happens is that the entire (ten times bigger) image is loaded and then squeezed into that space. Instead, simply resize it to 400x200px before uploading and cut the loading speed of the image by 90%. Across your whole website, that’ll speed things up no end. Also, ensure you’re using the proper format for the type of image you’re using to keep loading times to a minimum.

7. Optimise CSS

Cut out unnecessary or redundant lines of CSS, make sure your external file is being referenced properly and keep the CSS footprint to a minimum. If you keep it to one external CSS file, too, you’ll be minimising HTTP requests and killing two birds with one stone.

8. Let the main content load first

There are ways to ensure that the ‘above the fold’ content (and its related CSS) loads before anything else, meaning that the end user can view the content they wanted while other, less important, elements on the page load quietly in the background. This ensures the user is kept happy and can view the content they wanted as quickly as possible.

9. Keep plugins to a minimum

If you don’t really need certain elements on your website, get rid of them. Having lots of Flash, videos and other plugins might show your visitors how tech-savvy you are, but it’s also just as likely to put them off and a decent number of potential visitors won’t be able to see the content anyway as their page won’t have loaded before they’ve got annoyed and gone elsewhere. If it’s not necessary, ditch it.

10. Don’t use too many redirects

Redirects are also HTTP requests, which need to be kept to a minimum. It’s recommended that you use an HTTP redirect to take mobile users to the dedicated mobile site, but otherwise it’s best to keep these to a minimum as it can slow down the time it takes for a user to load your website. Again, if they get stuck at this stage, they’ll just be left staring at a blank white screen.

Recent research has shown that almost half of web visitors expect a page to fully load in under two seconds. Once it gets to three seconds, 40% will abandon ship and go elsewhere. And more than half of online shoppers say quick page loading is vital to where they choose to shop. The worrying thing is that the average web page takes 7.72 seconds to load — more than three times the expectations of the average user and more than twice the limit of 40% of users. That means the average website is haemorrhaging 60% of its potential visitors through slow loading times.

If you want some help speeding up your slow and sluggish website this summer, give us a call to see what we can do and how we can bring a little sunshine into your website’s life.

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5 Web Design Trends You Need to be Using

This was posted on June 22nd, 2015

web-design-trendsHaving a website can be a tricky business, particularly when it’s so important that you keep up with the latest web design trends. Your potential customers will certainly judge the nature of your business when viewing your website, and the last thing you want to be seen as is outdated or stuck in the past.

Keeping your website up to date with the latest web design trends doesn’t need to be difficult, though. Here, we’ll let you know 5 of the biggest new developments and can even help you integrate them into your website.

1. Infographics — preferably interactive ones

Infographics have been big ever since their introduction. They’re a great, innovative way of displaying otherwise lengthy and confusing information at a quick glance. If your infographics are interactive, you’re one step ahead of the game as these are becoming very hot right now.

Interactive infographic

 

2. Ghost buttons and line iconography

Apple has been at the forefront of technological innovation for a while now, but it continues to set trends in all sorts of areas. Web design is no different.

Ghost buttons (transparent buttons with a thin outline) and line iconography (simple, line-drawn icons) are two design trends which began with Apple and have since become the ‘in’ thing in terms of website design.

3. Less imagery — including background header images

It seems background header images are gradually dying out. They’re certainly a rare breed, and the web as a whole is getting less image-driven and more minimalistic, getting the important information across without cluttering the page with unnecessary visual detail.

Clean typography and minimalist, sparing images will be the future of the web, and that’s certainly where the trend is moving at the moment.

4. The growth of material design

Again, this can be seen by many as a rise of the minimalist approach. It generally encompasses a flat design but with some shaded gradients and even small amounts of animation to give some life and even a 3D element to the website itself.

This is another style of design which seems to have been influenced by Apple as it’s the design trend which appeared to begin with their mobile platform, iOS.

5. Microinteractions

The web has moved beyond buttons and ‘direct’ interactions and on to ‘microinteractions’, such as hovering over a button to produce a different type of behaviour to clicking on it, or moving your mouse in a certain way to produce an action. This is making the web more interactive as a result and increasing the function of websites in a way which hasn’t been seen before.

The fact is that even small business websites can take advantage — and are taking advantage — of these new trends and showing their customers that they’re up to date, responsive and keen to allow their customers to enjoy the benefits of the newest web technologies.

If you’re interested in speaking with us about getting your website up to date, give us a call and we’ll see what we can do.

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Happy Birthday, .uk Domains!

This was posted on June 16th, 2015

happy-birthday
It is now one year since .uk domain names were first made publicly available. In that time, an enormous number of domains have been registered and used, and if you haven’t yet registered your .uk domain name you could be missing out.

The importance of branding

Quite simply, it can often come down to branding. If you want to protect your brand online, registered your .uk domain name will protect your brand from cybersquatters at a very low cost. It could also act as a fantastic country-specific domain for your UK business and is much shorter than the traditional .co.uk TLD.

Building a local identity

Building this sort of local identity is very important for businesses of all shapes and sizes, and it’s easy for you to keep up and take advantage of this with an inexpensive .uk domain name. There’s a strong possibility that a .uk domain name will be advantageous in Google UK search results, for instance, signalling to Google that your website is more likely to be relevant than a .com or .net website to a visitor who’s seeking a UK-based company.

Easy, affordable and manageable

You don’t need to worry about having a new website built to go with your domain either, if you don’t want to. Domain names can easily be forwarded to other domains or websites, allowing you to simply register your corner of the internet and protect your brand name from cybersquatters by ensuring that you’ve registered the domain name before someone else does — potentially for disingenuous purposes.

Whichever way you view it, and whatever your motivation, registering your .uk domain name is inexpensive and advantageous in many ways. If you’d like to discuss registering your .uk domain names, please contact us today for more information on costs and logistics. It’s much easier and cheaper than you might think.

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Prove You’re Not a Robot? Don’t Worry, Google Knows

This was posted on June 8th, 2015

google-knows

One of the banes of the internet in the past couple of decades has been CAPTCHA boxes. The sheer amount of spam and number of robots on the web means that billions of innocent human users have needed to prove they weren’t a robot by entering strings of unintelligible and often illegible letters and numbers. According to Google, that could all be history.

The problem with CAPTCHA

CaptchaThe issue that many people have with CAPTCHA is its place as a necessary evil. Put simply, it’s either the pain of CAPTCHA or it’s an overwheming torrent of spam.

It’s difficult enough for a human being to read the words they’re meant to type sometimes, so it’s practically impossible for computers to do it. The issue is that if the human user can’t complete it, businesses could be losing out on valuable business because their potential clients might well just give up and not bother.

It’s a truism that websites need to make things as easy as possible for users and potential customers, as your competitor’s website is only a couple of clicks away. If those clicks are easier than filling out a complicated and cumbersome CAPTCHA form, you might well find that they’ll do just that instead.

Google’s vision for the future

Google, as it is wont to do, has decided to take things one step further. Put simply, a human being won’t need to do anything to prove they’re not a robot. Instead, the website will be able to tell. There’ll be no more proving your humanity by typing in intelligible words and numbers; the website will know whether you’re a human or a robot simply by detecting your behaviour and aspects of the way you browse.

This takes the web to a new dimension, elevating websites from simple two-dimensional, inert collections of data which are incapable of independent thought and instead giving them the ability to track the behaviour of their users in order to categorise them either as a human or a robot.

Google checkbox

Even simple things such as your mouse movement will be used to determine whether you’re a robot or a human. Google says it can tell from the way a mouse cursor moves towards a checkbox whether the user is a human being. This, they say, means that CAPTCHA can be replaced by a simple checkbox.

The concerns

As expected, many people are worried about having their online behaviour tracked. What must be stressed, though, is that Google aren’t really using anything which isn’t already being used. Rather, it’s a conglomeration of many existing technologies.

For example, it’ll use your IP address and cookies to determine your origin based on your browsing habits — something most websites can do anyway. Even the mouse tracking is done on many websites which employ advanced metrics and analytics software, so this is nothing new or groundbreaking from a privacy perspective.

With so many millions and billions of people having used the internet every day for the past couple of decades, the differences between human and robot browsing patterns are now pretty distinct. Surely if this technology can be used to combat spam, it’s a good thing?

What if it’s wrong?

Human ComputerThere are concerns that Google could get it wrong. What if you’re flagged up as being a robot when you’re actually a human being? In that case, you’ll be taken to the same old CAPTCHA form you would’ve seen up until now anyway. That way, you can simply enter the CAPTCHA text as you would have done and access the page in the same way.

Google has even addressed the privacy concerns by saying that users’ identities are never even tracked, let alone revealed. A Google spokesperson said ‘You don’t need to reveal a user’s identity to reveal their humanity’. In a world where the relationship between human beings and computers is growing ever closer, that might be one aspect of technology which is revisited time and time again in years to come.

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