Simple ways to speed up your website

Having a fast website is very important. As I mentioned in my Black Friday post, nobody likes a slow website and if your site take more than a few seconds to load, the chances are you are loosing visitors because of that lag.

This article contains a few easy to implement tips which you can use to help you reduce the load time of your website.

Keep Your Code Tidy

Unless something goes wrong, or someone chooses to view your source code, most of the people who visit your website will never see any of the code that is stuffed away behind the scenes. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important however. After all, the code at the back-end is what creates the website at the front end.

Minify HTML

Minimising your HTML, CSS and JavaScript is a very easy way to reduce the size of your website. If there is less to load, then your website will load faster. If you use a CMS like WordPress, there are many plugins which can minify your code for you. If you self-code there are websites which will shrink your code for you, or you could go through it yourself, removing unnecessary spaces and tags etc.

Reduce Files Fetched

It is good practice to fetch as few files as possible when loading your website. For example, many sites use separate style sheets for different parts of the website – for example one for text, one for images and another for general layout. Every file that your page calls upon increases its overall load time. Fetching one big CSS document will usually be faster than fetching three smaller ones.

Also consider how many external resources you load – for example adding a Facebook like button will require the users browser to visit Facebook’s website to pull the code across, whilst loading your page. A link or a delayed load on things like social sharing buttons can give you a big speed boost.

Optimise Your Images

Images make your content more exciting, however if you don’t optimise them then they can often really slow your page load time down. There are various ways you can reduce the file size of your images without compromising on quality.

Resize Pictures

When you take a picture, it can often be much bigger than you really need it to be. By resizing photos before you upload them, you can massively reduce the file size of your images. If you leave the file big, but resize it using HTML or CSS – by setting a smaller height and width – then the end user still has to load the big image, and then their browser then has to squash it down to fit your new image dimensions.

Choose The Right File Type

The most commonly used image formats are .jpg, .gif and .png.  Different images lend themselves to different formats. Reducing the number of colours available to a GIF or a PNG-8 image will reduce the files size, whilst reducing the image quality will lower the size of a JPEG file.

Use An Image Compressor

Image compressors are another way to shrink images. Technology Bloggers currently uses a WordPress plugin called WP Smush.it which uses the Yahoo! Smush.it tool to reduce image files.

Example

Here is a picture that I took several years ago whilst in South Africa.

Elephants in South Africa
The full sized image was 3.44 megabytes. Resizing it in Photoshop helped me reduce that to 1.61 megabytes. Because there are lots of colours and the image was quite big, choosing GIF and PNG-8 format made it look too pixelated, so it was between PNG-24 and JPEG. PNG-24 squashed the image down to 831 kilobytes, whilst JPEG compressed it to a tidy 450 kilobytes. Although that is a lot smaller than the original file, it would still take a long time to load on a slow connection so by taking a very small hit on the image quality, I managed to get the file size down to 164 kilobytes. Finally running the image through Smush.it took it down to 157 kilobytes. Some images see a big reduction, most (like this one) see a smaller reduction of just a few percent.

Use A Content Delivery Network

Content delivery networks, or CDNs, can help to improve a websites speed and make it more reliable. Put very simply, when someone tries to access your site, without a CDN they are directed to your hosting provider, who will then serve them your website and all its files from their server. This means that if your host goes down because of a fault, or a sudden surge in traffic you loose your site, and also if your host is not close to a user, it can take a long time for them to communicate.

With a CDN, users can fetch your site faster, because it is offered in multiple locations around the world. Additionally many CDNs can cache a copy of your site, so if your host goes offline, they can provide a static version of your site to users until it comes back up.

For example, Technology Bloggers is currently hosted in Gloucester in the UK. If you access us from Australia, CloudFlare (the CDN we use) will send you to its closest data centre, which could be in Australia, which will then deliver the files you need to see our site. It is faster because your requests don’t have to travel all the way to the UK and nor does the data being sent back to you either.

Control Your Cache

Server Side

If you use a CMS, then the chances are your content is dynamically delivered upon request. Basically, when the user requests a page, your site creates it and then sends it back. By using some form of caching you can create a static image of your site, so your site doesn’t have to create the content each time a user visits it. There are various plugins you can use to help with this, Technology Bloggers uses CloudFlare’s caching system, as I have found this seems to work better than other WordPress plugins I have tried. Also, using too many plugins, slows your site down, hence why I let the CDN manage it.

User Side

A users browser also saves files for later, in case they visit your site again. It is possible to determine what files are saved and for how long these files are saved for, by adding caching headers to your .htaccess file you can change these settings.

How To Test If Your Site Is Faster

Refreshing your page and timing it with a stopwatch is one way to gauge how quick your site loads. This probably isn’t the best way to do it though!

There are various websites which rate your sites speed performance. I tend to measure Technology Bloggers using four main speed analysis sites.

Google PageSpeed

Google are keen for the web to be faster and offer a very useful tool which gives your site a score for mobile load time and desktop load time. It also suggests what it believes is slowing your site down. Google’s tool also gives an image of your fully loaded site – all the content above the fold. Unfortunately, their test doesn’t actually state how fast your site loads, just how well optimised it is.

WebPageTest

Probably the most thorough site I use is WebPageTest, which presents loads of different information, including first view load time, repeat view load time (which should be quicker if you have user side caching), a waterfall view of all the files loading, a visual representation of how your site loads, suggestions as to where performance issues lie and loads more.

An analysis of TechnologyBloggers.org using the WebPageTest tool

Pingdom

Pingdom is another useful tool, it gives a handy speed score and also tells you how fast your site is compared to other sites it has tested. It also saves your speed results, so you can view historic test result speeds on a graph, and see how your sites speed has changed.

GTmetrix

GTmetrix is another useful site. It also gives lots of details, and helps you to see what is slowing your site down. GTmetrix also lets you compare one site to another, which I’m not really sure is that useful, but it is interesting to see how your competitors site compares to your own.

An analysis of TechnologyBloggers.org using the GTmetrix tool

Happy Browsing

Remember to enjoy your new, faster site! Hopefully your visitors will too. 🙂

SEO – becoming a victim of your own success

If you succeed, others copy you. Some say that this imitation should be seen as flattery. Those who are being imitated may just think you are being plain darn rude.

This is a story of how I had an idea, and that idea trued into an overnight success – with yours truly receiving nul points for it.

Okay, I am over dramatising things here.

SEO

Quite ironically, one of the toughest industries to succeed in is SEO, as the market is hugely over saturated with literally tens of thousands of people and firms, offering their services to help you “reach top of Google” or rank “on page 1 for your keywords” – believe what you will. Food for thought: Google the term ‘SEO’, and there are (to quote Google) “About 224,000,000 results“. Who is top? No, not the best SEO agency, but Wikipedia – naturally!

My Success

Anyhow, the story goes that I had an idea, an idea to make a new image for an article. One of our writers had contributed a guest post, and in that article they talked about SEO. I thought that an interesting image to accompany the article would be an upward pointing arrow (to demonstrate improvement) and the word ‘Google’ balanced on top.

I found an image off the internet, and took Google’s logo for the text, and set about making a large, high quality version of my idea.

The image I created can be seen below.

SEO Graph - GoogleQuite a good image I thought. Apparently, other people like it to. After just 4 months being live on the blog, many other people have found it in Google, and the image now ranks in the top 25 images when you Google Image Search the term ‘SEO’, and the top 10 when you type ‘Google SEO’.

Okay it ranks on an image search, not a ‘web search’, however I still got an image of my design and [part] creation, very high in the SERPs for a very difficult keyword.

The Problem

The problem was the aforementioned popularity. As I opened: “If you succeed, others copy you” – it’s true.

After just a few weeks of the image being live, it had been copied, and Technology Bloggers (the image source) was no longer the site that showed up with the image, as other sites with higher reputations (in Google’s view) stole our limelight.

As the images creator, I believe that when people find the image in Google and then click on it, they should be taken to our site, as without this site, there would have been no image! However we don’t show anymore.

Stealing Images

This lead me to think about stealing images. I was unhappy that other people were taking my work and passing it off as their own, and benefiting more than me because of it.

However who am I to moan, as I steal images too. If I like an image I will use it in an article. Is this right? Possibly not.

Ideas lightbulb

The ‘light bulb’ image I used in my post yesterday.

That said, when using images, I tend not to lift the image straight off a website and put it in my post, I will usually modify it in some way first, so that the image is different from the creators version. I feel this is slightly more justifiable than just ‘stealing’ another’s work.

Take the image in my post on Monday, the idea light bulb, that wasn’t my image, but I resized it and added some text to it – therefore making it a variation, not a copy.

In my Google SEO image, the SEO graph image was an origional image, as was Google’s logo; neither of these images belonged to me, but I still used them.

Right and Wrong

I feel that straight out lifting and pasting images is wrong, and anyone who has ever suffered because of my use of their image, I apologise, get in touch and I will see what I can do.

If you modify an image in some way to make it your own, then I feel you are in a slightly different position.

The Fight Back

As you have probably gathered by now if you are a loyal reader, I [sometimes] have a mild case of perfectionism and am one to constantly tweak, change and improve.

After a while I started to dislike the image I had made; the letters were a little skeewiff and the shadow at the bottom finished a little abruptly.

So I went back the the drawing board and remade the image, but better.

I knew if the last image was successful, and this one was better then it would probably be more popular and therefore shared even more, so I hatched a plan. I decided to watermark the image, very faintly, with Technology Bloggers web address. I don’t really like watermarking much, but it seemed to be the only option I had.

Below is the new image.
Google SEO ChartNotice that there is no watermark on the smaller version of the image, however if you click on the image, the big version does bear the watermark. If you want to use a small version, fine, no problemo. If you use the big version, you advertise our site – simple. That way, if the image is stolen, all credit is not lost, and hopefully, Technology Bloggers should show in the search results for the image, as we have the biggest version hosted on the site.

UPDATE: I have updated the SEO image again! Click the link to view the new version. 🙂

Some ideas as to how you can write engaging articles

This is a sponsored post. To find out more about sponsored content on Technology Bloggers, please visit our Privacy Policy.

Grabbing the attention of a reader – and keeping it – can make or break a blog. Usually, bloggers become successful and well known within a particular niche not by writing in essay style about a subject, but by approaching and executing a piece of content in a particular way.

Here’s how…

Decide on an interesting topic

The first job is arguably the most important and that’s picking about something interesting to write about. Engaging content can come in many different forms, with the most common being interviews, lists, news, opinion, research findings, infographics, cool images and graphics.

Have a catchy headline

Decide on a title that’ll immediately make somebody sit up and take notice as they scroll down a page. There’s no point crafting a brilliant blog post if you can’t get it under the noses of your target audience. Keep it short. Keep it snappy.

Develop your own writing style

Different bloggers have different writing styles – and it’s important to find what works best for you. Don’t just copy the style of blogs you read, develop your own style. Remember, blogs are very personal things – so personalise yours!

The text: different writing styles

Think about your target audience

Before you start writing a piece you should really take five minutes to decide who the target audience is. Ask yourself: who is going to read the article? Why will they want to read this? What’s the ‘hook’ that will ensure this article is seen?

Consider how the information is displayed

As well as being pleasing to read in terms of the content, it needs to be pleasing on the eye as well, so use images, subheadings and short paragraphs. A big chunk of text is likely to put readers off, so make your blog posts as easy to read as possible.

Show some link love

Link to relevant external sources within your blog posts if applicable because this adds value to your articles and acts as a way of recommending other pieces of content that may be useful to the reader. You never know, somebody could link back to your article one day.

At the end of the day these are principles that can be applied to your blogging whatever your niche.

How much data can the human brain hold?

Last week I was listening to a really interesting radio programme, in which I heard a few facts that amazed me. Firstly, did you know that your brain has around one hundred billion (yes, 100,000,000,000) neurons. Each of those neurons are thought have tens of thousands of connections to other neurons. That means in your brain there are… a lot of connections!

Anyhow, in the radio show they also stated that a cubic millimetre of brain tissue contained a petabyte of data. Unless you know your bits and bytes, you might not realise what that means. To put it simply, one cubic millimetre of brain matter has the capacity to store all the digital images currently on Facebook, i.e. every image the social network has ever had uploaded. This is only possible thanks to the number of connections between brain cells.

All that in just one cubic millimetre of your brain! Gosh.

This got me thinking, how much data can the human brain hold? To start investigating this I first needed to brush up on my knowledge of storage units.

Bits And Bytes

Okay, lets start from the beginning. The smallest packet of data you can get is a bit, which is equivalent to one binary digit. A byte is equivalent to 8 bits of data, therefore a bit is equal to 0.125 bytes. Make sense so far?

In between bit an byte is the less well known nibble, which is equivalent to 4 bits. I suspect whoever invented bits, nibbles and bytes was either a little obsessed with food, or quite peckish at the time!

The next step up from a byte is a kilobyte, which is equal to 1,000 bytes in terms of storage space. If you wanted to talk about processing ability, one kilobyte is equal to 1,024 bytes – lets stick to storage though!

1kB = 1,000 (one thousand) bytes

This is still really tiny. To put it into perspective the size of a typical 80 word plain text email is around 10kb (or 10,000 bytes) – source About.com.

From kilobytes we climb to megabytes which equal 1,000 kilobytes.

1MB = 1,000,000 (one million) bytes

On my digital camera, I have it set to the highest quality and image size to 3264 by 2448 which produces images usually between 2 and 5MB. Quite big relative to a kilobyte.

The megabyte has nothing on the gigabyte though, which is 1,000 megabytes!

1GB = 1,000,000,000 (one billion) bytes

The maximum any CD ROM can hold is 900 megabytes of data which is 100MB less than a gigabyte. So a gigabyte is just bigger than a CD.

After a gigabyte comes a 1,000 times bigger terabyte.

1TB = 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) bytes

In my current computer I have a terabyte sized hard disk. Many computers come with terabyte or half terabyte hard disks nowadays, however go back seven or eight years and 80gb (8% of a terabyte) was around the average hard disk size, showing the advancements that have been made in just a few years.

Eventually we reach the petabyte, and you guessed it, it is 1,000 times bigger again.

1PB = 1,000,000,000,000,000 (one quadrillion) bytes

One petabyte is the amount of data one cubic millimetre of brain tissue can hold. That’s two petanibbles and eight petabits.

How Much Data Could A Brain Be?

There are so many factors which affect brain size that it is going to be hard for me to work this out with any sort of accuracy, but I will try. Ethnicity, gender and body size along with many other factors affect brain size. The amount of data the brain can store isn’t solely dependant on size, but lets ignore that for now. The average female brain is around 1130 cubic centimetres, whilst the average male brain is 1260 cubic centimetres. That said women have more connections between the two hemispheres than men do.

Averaging it out, that means that the average brain size is 1195 cm3. So how many cubic millimetres go into 1195 cm3? 1,195,000 – to be precise.

The brain is 1.2 zettabytes in sizeThat means that the human brain can store 1,195,000 petabytes of data! That is equivalent to 1.195 zettabytes, as an zettabyte is equal to 1,000,000 petabytes.

What Percentage Of The Brain Is Storage?

Not all of your brain is dedicated to storage though, meaning that 1.195 zettabytes isn’t true to the amount of data we can store. So, how much of the human brain is storage?

From my understanding, most memory processes and storage happens in the temporal lobe. This is approximately 25% of the brain – that is a very approximate percentage!

How Much Data Can A Brain Hold?

In order to answer the above question, I am assuming that 25% of the brain is dedicated to memory, whilst the rest is required for other functioning, and that the average brain is 1,195,000 cubic millimetres in size.

25% of 1,195,000 cubic millimetres is 298,750 cubic millimetres. If one cubic millimetre of brain tissue contains a petabyte of data then the average human brain is able to hold 298,750 petabytes of data.

298,750 petabytes of data is equivalent to:

  • 2,390,000,000,000,000,000,000 bits
  • 298,750,000,000,000,000,000 bytes
  • 298.750 exabytes (approx 300 exabytes)
  • 0.29875 zettabytes (approx 0.3 zettabytes)

So there you have it, were you to max out your memory, you could probably store around 300 exabytes of data.

To put 300 exabytes into perspective, one standard single layer Blu-Ray disc can hold 25GB of data – approximately 5 hours of HD video. Therefore your brains memory could theoretically hold 12,000,000,000 Blu-Ray discs – around 60 billion hours of HD video!

Will we ever be able to technically match the amazing feats that nature has achieved? I am not so sure you know…