It is widely accepted that we are in the pinnacle of user experience (UX). Ensuring the best possible experience for consumers is a key priority for modern digital products, however, it can be a difficult task to achieve, especially for web designers and developers. Users desire their digital interactions with businesses to be effortless and swift, so online products must be carefully balanced between these three elements.
It is expected that today’s web development projects should create online products that have sophisticated features, are user-friendly and run at an extremely fast speed. Even the most experienced web developers find this aim challenging. Fortunately, there are strategies and techniques that can help web development teams to achieve this.
Today, I present a selection of tips and techniques to help you and your development team optimize speed, one of the three pillars of the triad mentioned earlier. When I say “speed”, I am referring to the loading speed of web pages. In today’s digital age, users expect an instant response from their interactions, so it’s vital that your services are able to meet this expectation.
Quite a few strategies exist for achieving this goal. Five examples are shown below.
Make Use of only Web-Safe Fonts
It can be tempting to focus on the more intricate details of web development when creating a website, particularly if it would bring a unique aesthetic to the end product. However, if too much attention is paid to the small details, page load times can be impacted. This can be due to an excessive number of requests, too many elements to load, or files that are too large, all of which can hinder the loading time of the page. There are numerous ways to avoid this issue, but fonts are often an area that is overlooked by web developers.
Many website developers may not consider the implications of using fonts from Google Fonts or Adobe Fonts. However, using custom fonts can increase page loading times, which may be problematic for those with slower internet connections. Additionally, custom typefaces may affect the responsiveness of the entire website.
Web-safe typefaces are those that are compatible across a variety of platforms, enabling you to use a typeface that your audience may already have on their computers, thus eliminating the need to install one. Although fonts may display differently on various platforms, web-safe font stacks allow you to select a set of fonts that are visually similar, ensuring that your online products offer a consistent experience to customers regardless of their operating system.
Reduce the Delay Before the First Byte Is Sent.
Many people focus on website loading times, but few consider the time taken to initially start loading. This is known as the ‘time to first byte’ (TTFB). Long waiting times can have a negative impact on the quality of service. Google recommends aiming for a TTFB of less than 200 ms.
It is possible to enhance the Time To First Byte (TTFB) of your pages by optimizing the server-side variables that affect it. Factors such as network issues, website visitors, dynamic content production and the web server’s settings can all contribute to this. Unfortunately, the first two factors are beyond your control as they are dependent on external factors. Nevertheless, you can take measures to improve the development of dynamic content and the configuration of the web server.
In order to serve dynamic content, a dynamic file needs to be generated by the server. This is done by using PHP to construct the content from a database, before it is then sent to the browser. As this process can take some time, it may result in slower loading times.
Enabling caching could significantly improve the user experience and reduce loading times for repeat visitors to the website. Whilst there may be no noticeable benefit for first-time visitors, regular users should experience a marked improvement.
Load Images Asynchronously Using Lazy Loading.
Lazy loading is a technique that delays the loading of a page’s components until they are needed, which results in only the necessary resources being loaded. This is beneficial in avoiding the loading of unnecessary or hidden elements.
The implementation of lazy loading techniques can significantly reduce the loading time of an online product. This method of selectively loading components can be applied to any part of a website, however, it is recommended to begin by optimizing the loading of images.
The advantages of lazy loading images are simple to implement, as all that is required is to include the ‘loading’ attribute within the image tag. Most modern browsers are equipped with the ability to utilize lazy loading, meaning that there should be no detriment to the user experience.
Lazy loading can be implemented through the polyfill attribute, Intersection Observer API and event handlers. To ensure compatibility across all web browsers, it is recommended to take advantage of these methods, particularly if any of the users are using outdated or incompatible browsers.
Make Use of a CDN
It is possible to use multiple servers to host a website in order to ensure reliability, improve speed and reduce wait times for users. This approach spreads the workload across multiple servers, reducing the risk of any one server becoming overwhelmed. Additionally, users located further away from the website should experience faster loading times.
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a system of servers that store cached copies of websites and web applications in various geographical locations. This enables requests to be routed to the server closest to the user, providing faster loading times without changing the data being provided.
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is an effective way of addressing latency and loading time issues for users located far away from the hosting servers. Cloudflare and StackPath (formerly MaxCDN) are some of the most popular CDNs. While StackPath is more concentrated in providing CDN services, Cloudflare is a more comprehensive hosting package, incorporating both CDN services and security tools. Both platforms are simple to set up and can significantly reduce the time needed for pages to load.
Cut Down on CSS and Java Script Files 5
Both programmes are compatible with TypeScript and are able to utilize CSS preprocessors. The key advantage of these programmes is that they are highly effective at reducing the size of a wide range of files, and they do so with exceptional speed. By employing these tools, it is possible to significantly reduce load times to improve the user experience.
Long Road Ahead
Despite the fact that implementing just a few of the suggested recommendations can help reduce loading times, there are many more optimization strategies that can be employed. These easy-to-implement techniques may help to improve loading speeds and include optimizing CSS delivery, prioritizing above-the-fold content through lazy loading, reducing redirects, and reducing the use of plugins.
It is important to utilise the strategies that have been outlined above; however, this should only be seen as the starting point. To ensure a positive online experience, loading times must be taken into consideration and further research into web development should be undertaken to uncover the various methods available to manage them.