Quick Wins: Page Speed Optimisation

It was 2012, a fire has just consumed a building in Oklahoma City, and a woman nicknamed “Sweet Brown” was about to create a generation-defining mantra…

The quote went viral, Sweet Brown became a meme overnight, and Apple even released a song on iTunes sampling the interview.

But the painful truth is, most people won’t spare much time for anything – particularly in a world dominated by 4G smartphones and fibre optic broadband.

They complain if their take-out arrives 10 minutes late. They become impatient waiting a week for their favourite TV show to air. They leave a website if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load.

These are things that may take hours, days or even years to produce and perfect, but the public want them now.

But there’s no point getting all nostalgic about the good ol’ days when things arrived whenever they arrived – ain’t nobody got time for that!

What the world needs now is solutions.

Page Speed and Search Rankings

Google being Google weren’t content simply to let the market dictate which websites won and lost the speed wars. Instead they started building pagespeed into their overall ranking algorithm. Now to get ranked higher, you need a lightning-fast page.

There’s a lot of little tweaks that can improve page speed, such as compressing images and minifying markup, employing CSS or Javascript, and loading scripts in a particular order.

You could even employ server-side caching with something like Apache Varnish, storing dynamic pages as static pages, so the server can deliver the page from its cache, saving processing power and decreasing load time.

However, what most companies want is a quick fix – something they can implement now while they fiddle with the details on their back-end.

Enter: Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Source: Google Blog

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages

The idea with AMP is that, when visited from a qualifying mobile, it will display a very simple (but with colour and branding options) stylesheet with a very small library of Javascript components.

It can be implemented very simply on most platforms. Several plugins exist for WordPress, Joomla, etc. and are available through their plugin repository. It’s possible to use AMP with any CMS/System; it just requires the knowhow to set it up, as it uses a much lighter, more restricted version of HTML.

Now AMP supports Google Analytics too.

We highly recommend implementation of AMP for a few reasons.

  • Provides massively improved page speed
  • Displays in a nice single-column format
  • All semantic elements are appropriately styled for a good and easy-to-read user experience

AMP has received support from many big names including Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress.com, Chartbeat, Parse.ly, Adobe Analytics and LinkedIn1–and it’s easy to see why.

Using AMP puts the focus on content without all the distractions littered around the screen. In mobile UX, it’s important to remember that screen real estate should be used to its potential.

AMP is especially good for websites that have an active blog. By reducing everything down to simple content, Accelerated Mobile Pages make browsing on mobile devices a much more pleasant experience, although this does come at the price of any custom components or functionality (client side, anyway) not working on the AMP version of your site.

Facebook Instant Articles

Source: Facebook

Facebook’s Instant Articles

Much like AMP, Facebook’s Instant Articles aims to reduce the overall size of the request, making viewing content on a mobile device much quicker. It does this, however, using the Facebook app.

The app formats the page in a very simple, elegant, and easy-to-use way, free of visual noise and without the achingly long load time.

Here are the key features for Instant Articles.

  • Provides massively improved page speed
  • Displays in an easy-to-read format
  • Has visually appealing components, thanks to Facebook’s app
  • Is theoretically faster than AMP, due to assets already being stored on device

Instant Articles is now available to a select few businesses who meet certain criteria via a Facebook plugin. It is not possible to supply CSS for the plugin, but you can use Facebook’s style editor to customise your feed. Implementation of Instant Articles will create additional Instant Articles-specific markup.

As there are many great components to choose from with Instant Articles, it’s much easier to publish engaging and immersive articles. The main drawback is exclusivity. The criteria for the first round of Instant Articles adopters is not publicly known. However, following Facebook’s F8 developer conference, on April 12 Instant Articles will be available for everybody.

Ultimately, you shouldn’t rely on either of these as the solution to improving pagespeed. To stay competitive, it’s recommended that you employ any and every tactic to reduce pagespeed, improving the experience for as wide a range of devices possible.

1 – Taken from official Google blog. Click here to read more.

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