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Capturing Conversions: Why Milliseconds Matter to the Bottom Line

Increasing Download SpeedsThere’s an old saying we all deal with every day: time is money. On the Internet, money can be measured pretty well by one important metric: page load time. Research has shown consistently that user experience is important and functionality is useful, but nothing will cause a customer to jump ship quicker than a slow website.

In fact, Microsoft claims that 250 milliseconds can be the difference between a return customer and an abandoned checkout cart.

According to surveys from Akamai and Gomez, nearly half of website visitors expect a page to load in less than two seconds, and every one second increase in load time can result in up to a 7% reduction in conversions. In 2009, an internal study by an ecommerce website showed that every 100 milliseconds of latency resulted in a 1% loss of sales. Think about that. In less than the blink of an eye, you can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Luckily, there is plenty you can do to fix it – both on your own site and in choosing the right hosting partner.

Minimize, Optimize

The biggest thing you have to know is how many files your host server will return on a single request. The fewer files you have to serve, the quicker your site is going to be. That means that instead of 20 CSS files across your site, consolidate into a single CSS file. Even if this results in a larger file, batching CSS or JavaScript files into a single request will result in faster load times because your site only has to pull back a single file from your server.

Your host server obviously plays a critical role in site speed, but it’s important to consider the other half of the equation: your user’s computer. At any given time, all web browsers will allow only 6 open connections to a host server, so minimizing server requests is key.

Say your site has 28 1kb JavaScript files. This means that the browser will need 4-5 download sessions to fully pull down the files before it can move to the next step – and then your scripts will need to execute. In contrast, a single 28kb JavaScript file will download concurrently with 5 other files.

Cleaning Your Code

When building your site framework, be mindful of where you have placed your JavaScript files, because you can greatly increase load times by waiting for JavaScript to load and execute before loading site features. Make sure your CSS has priority over any executable scripts in your site HEAD, because poorly placed JavaScript can have a detrimental effect on page load times.

Server-Side Caching for Images

Images will almost always be the most resource-intensive area of your website. With the plethora of mobile devices and screen sizes we have today, your site must resize images to display properly on any given screen. By enabling server-side caching of images, your server can send the same resized image to any visitor with an iPad without waiting for an image resizer to render each request from an iPad user. Images are commonly cached, but it’s a good rule of thumb to say that if it can be kept in cache, it should be.

Hosting Your Website and Database Separately

It can seem odd to have two servers for the same site, but it can result in significant speed improvements. Each server has both RAM cache and disk cache, with RAM cache being the quicker of the two. No matter how much RAM you have, SQL server will always take as much of it as it can access.

If you have your SQL server on your web server, the database hogs all the RAM it can, and it will constantly be clearing the RAM cache, which makes it more difficult to optimize performance. In SQL server, RAM cache is considered expendable, so the RAM cache is purged when SQL server needs resources.

Utilize CDN Where Possible

Content Delivery Networks, or CDN, can play a pivotal role in improving site speed – especially if you’re serving clients across the country or internally. Using regionally distributed servers, a CDN delivers resource-intensive files like images or common library JavaScript. So while your site framework is loading from a Datapipe server in San Jose, your images are getting a speed boost from a regional server in our Hong Kong data center.

Profile Yourself

Running a profile on your site database using SQL server’s SQL Server Profiler can also help your site be rearranging database schema to give precedence to your site’s most commonly used functionality.  The profile will identify the most common tasks on the server (pages visited, actions performed, etc.) and create a profile. You can then load that profile into the Database Engine Tuning Advisor which will analyze captured data and suggest changes that can speed up the most used queries, keeping your most important tasks running smoothly.

Choosing the Right Host

The speed and location of your host can also play a role in minimizing load times. Just like using a regional CDN can help reduce the load time of image assets, so can using a centrally located host. Datapipe has data centers around the world, which helps reduce latency and serves your customers across the globe. Of course, speed is just as important as location – and Datapipe excels in network performance. Our Teir 1 backed network and dynamically-controlled Border Gateway Protocol maximize connection speed and minimize latency.

Time Is Money

Ensuring smooth site operation can be a time-consuming task, but just remember how quickly a prospective customer can abandon your site and seek out a competitor. Milliseconds matter. It’s never too late to start improving your site performance.

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About David Vogel

David Vogel
Digital marketer at Datapipe.