Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Speeding Up Your Website
How leveraging a content delivery network (CDN) can lead to huge improvements in the speed of your website.
Most web designers are admittedly biased, but we believe design is the most important aspect of any website. The design is what people see and interact with, and most people aren't going to care what's behind it. At the same time, absolutely no one likes a slow loading website. In fact, study's have shown that web users are exceedingly impatient. This leads to the obvious conclusion that a design can only get you so far. In conjunction with a great web design, you really do need a thoughtfully developed code base.
In terms of web development, there are a variety of ways to code a site efficiently, but unfortunately that won't get you the entire way either. Design lives on code that needs to be delivered efficiently in order to meet web user's expectations. Enter the use of a content delivery network (CDN).
Are we there yet? Now, more than ever, web users are exceedingly impatient.
A content delivery network is a group of web servers that are distributed across multiple locations. When a user accesses your site, the CDN selects a server to deliver the site's content based that user's location. Typically, the server with the fewest network "hops" will be chosen. Think of it like this: say you are craving a beer but would have to go all the way to the kitchen to get it. (What?!? Portland is the beer capital of the world. This is a legitimate analogy). In a perfect scenario, you would have a beer fridge in every room of your house, thus making your beer run as fast as possible no matter what room of the house you are in. In one word? Efficient.
The overwhelming amount of your site's end-user's time is spend loading all of the elements that create the front-end of a web page (80% +). By placing your site's static assets (such as images, stylesheets and scripts) on a content delivery network, you can substantially reduce response time and simultaneously enhance user experience. As an added bonus, modern browsers allow you to parallelize downloads across hostnames. Put simply, serving assets from a CDN allows you to create a multi-lane highway as opposed to all assets traveling and being delivered from a single lane (each waiting for the next in line to arrive). The topper? Did you know site speed is a factor in your website's search engine optimization (SEO)? Google publicly announced as much in the Spring of 2010. They know slow loading sites create low user engagement, and of course they are trying to serve search results that are not only relevant, but helpful to their users.
Threshold was built on providing outstanding design to our clients. However, we're always striving to make our work even better - in any way possible. Often times that means refining our backend practices, both code base and its delivery. Content delivery networks have become an integral part of our efforts to deliver the best product possible to our clients. We recommend they become part of yours as well.