Delivering a great user experience is a paramount concern for any business today, especially when it comes to making an impact on your intended audience. Having great UX means offering relevant content, delivering it quickly to the user, and ensuring this is done in a user-friendly way. Speed is becoming the most decisive factor, since you want to capture the user’s attention and prevent attrition or fallout.
Optimizing your website for speed and performance typically involves a two-pronged strategy. One part of the strategy deals with optimizing your back-end or webservers. The other part, which is often neglected, deals with optimizing the front-end.
Front-end optimization (FEO) deals with the way your website’s content loads on user’s browser. It is directly related to the user experience and the way your site’s content is presented on the user’s screen. FEO is essentially a set of tools and methods that attempt to minimize the time it takes to load your content at user’s end. This typically includes a wide range of practices such as compression, caching, cache optimization, resource consolidation and code minification. The end goal of it all is simply to reduce the perceived page load time for the user, giving the user quicker access to the content and thus minimizing churn.
Tools and Resources for FEO
The exact FEO tools and resources that you should use depend entirely on the nature of your website, but the following should be a guide as to how you can improve UX.
This is one of the most basic techniques involved in front-end optimization. File compression minimizes the size of the content, thus reducing bandwidth usage. The more compressed the size of the content, the quicker it loads at user’s end. Among the most useful file compression techniques is Gzip which can successfully compress a page by as much as 60 to 80%.
When a user tries to access your website, he is usually served content directly from your webservers. An easy way of speeding up content delivery is to locate a cached version of this content geographically nearer to the user with the use of a content delivery network (CDN). So when users access your website, they are served the cached version from a closer source.
Simple caching, as mentioned above, can be a tedious task if you want to accomplish it manually. Automated cache optimization, provided by a CDN, follows the same principle as simple caching, but with a few advantages. For example, you are able to specifically set caching rules for different kinds of content on your website.
CDNs also offer advanced machine-learning techniques in caching content, allowing you to cache even content that is typically deemed dynamic. This way, you are able to cache not only static content, but also much of the dynamic content that you update on a regular basis. The result is that the user is able to access most of the content of your website in a fraction of the actual load time.
Resource consolidation is essentially effective categorization of your website’s content. If you have ten images that the user needs to load, the user’s browser will have to make ten HTTP requests to load all the images.
If you perform resource consolidation, you can bundle all the images into a single sprite image, which is consequently requested and accessed by the browser through a single HTTP request. This reduces the time it takes to load content from server to user’s end, giving user the impression that his browser is accessing the content instantly. This way, you can use resource consolidation to categorize the content of a given web page broadly so that it is delivered to the user end more instantly.
The CDN Factor
Front-end optimization means an improvement in the speed as well as the overall performance of your website. While you can implement the above-mentioned tools individually, you can essentially do all in one go by deploying a CDN that supports front-end optimization by default, thus minimizing file sizes and bandwidth utilization, while at the same time reducing latency by caching both static and dynamic content across global nodes.
We live in the age where the bulk of online traffic originates from mobile devices. Mobile users typically demand high-speed content delivery. If your website is not fast enough, then users will turn elsewhere. Thus, to remain competitive, you will need to ensure maximum speed and top performance. Applying the aforementioned FEO techniques may seem a bit tedious, but they will give you a crucial edge.