We asked our in-house developer Perry Toone a few questions about managing a website after we made a few minor changes to our website over the past few months.

Many of the changes we made to become fully compliant with Google’s updated terms.

What was a key factor in the recent improvements?

I would say that the biggest area of improvement is speed. Many of the recent changes were made based on improving page load time.

How do you measure page load time?

It is as simple as visiting a website and measuring how many milliseconds it takes to load. There are as couple of useful tools I used to check which also break down all the elements of a page, which allows you to see what exactly is putting the greatest load on the server. Pingdom is one and Google has one too.

What did you do to reduce the page load time?

I reduced the size of all images and then compressed then. I then complied all the css and JavaScript code into one file. This shaved off a couple of bytes which slightly improved the page load time. I then looked at which elements on the page where causing the highest load on the server, and took steps to either replace or remove them.

What was causing the highest load on the server?

Third party JavaScript was the biggest. This is hosted on another server which in turn ensures a slower page load time. We were using AddThis social connect buttons and the AddThis share widget. When I saw how much removing AddThis helped with reducing load time, I had to get rid of them.

What did you use instead of AddThis?

The AddThis social tools area really good, they are easy to setup and have a lot of customization functionality. The only thing negative with them is how many milliseconds they add to the page load time. I built custom social icons for the footer which removed reliance on JavaScript, as for the share buttons (found on Thexyz forum) I used this lightweight option from digital point.

What if you have to use third party applications?

Displaying them in Ajax or i frame is a good practice to help increase the page load time of these elements. Also if the third party application goes down, it ensures your site load is not affected.

Do you have any other tips for reducing page load time?

Use css as much as possible. Buttons are a good example of this. Instead of using an image you can create some fancy looking buttons with css. I also posted a tutorial on this here.

Is improving the page load really that important?

Yes. Not only does Google now say that it does have an impact on how they rank websites, it also improves the user experience. Nobody wants to wait a few seconds for a website to load.