Shaving off Seconds: Making your Website Faster

Does your website load too slowly? Try using a content delivery network and caching static content. Read on for details and a quick-and-easy three-step guide.

I’ve never been satisfied with Debug Mind’s speed. If you ever visited this site before, you probably drummed your fingers impatiently while your browser slowly painted the web page down the screen. Having done more than my fair share of finger-drumming, I decided to make this site faster: Debug Mind now uses both CloudFlare, a content delivery network and optimizing service, and W3 Total Cache, a WordPress caching plugin.

Below you’ll find an outline of the steps I took to speed up my website. While the third step is WordPress-specific, the first two should be applicable to most websites.

Step one: Diagnose the bottlenecks
Before making your website faster, you might want to know why it’s slow. If you don’t care for the “why” and simply want results, skip ahead to step two. For those of you curious about why your site loads slowly, I recommend completing step one.

Analyze HTTP requests with Chrome Developer Tools
The Chrome browser packages a handy set of tools that you can use to analyze websites. If for some reason you don’t want Chrome on your machine, alternatives to Developer Tools exist for other browsers and a Google search will likely find them.

Chrome Developer Tools can help you diagnose speed bottlenecks. Often times uncached images and poorly written plugins slow your website down.

Chrome Developer Tools can help you diagnose speed bottlenecks. Often times uncached images and poorly written plugins slow your website down.

Assuming that you’re using Chrome, navigate to the browser menu’s tools section and click on Developer Tools. Click on the Network tab and then navigate over to the website you want to analyze. Once the website loads, you’ll see a list of requests that your browser made while fetching your site. The timeline tells you how long each request took. Isolate requests with the longest streaks in the timeline. These are the things that are slowing your website down. Chances are that the bottlenecks are image loads and other static media. Other things — perhaps plugins, if you’re on WordPress or something comparable — might also contribute to the lag. read more »