Is a lazy website key to online success?

Speed matters. Once upon a time, if a business had a website, it was revolutionary. Now in many cases if a business doesn’t have a website, it will usually suffer as a result.

When the internet was in its infancy, speed wasn’t really on the agenda. If your site loaded super fast (remember we are still in the days of 56kbps/dial-up internet access here) great. If it didn’t, people would be prepared to wait.

Nowadays there are so many different websites offering such similar information, if your site is slow, your traffic (or as I prefer to call it visitor numbers, or even better: people) will suffer as a result. There are countless studies into this, almost all of which conclude that the slower a site is, the fewer visitors it has.

Furthermore, speed is starting to become an evermore important search engine ranking factor – if your site is slow, you are less likely to rank at the top.

Okay, you get the point: today speed matters.

The problem with many websites is that they have so much to load. When you load our homepage, it isn’t just a few lines of HTML that your browser requests from our server, it also fetches a handful of local CSS, JavaScript and PHP files, in addition to bunch of images and some large chunks of external code, which are used to generate social media buttons.

This all takes time, and every extra byte and file that is requested will slow down the page load time.

Slim Down

One way to reduce the size of the page is to reduce the amount of files – and the size of those files – that are fetched. We make every effort to ensure that our locally loaded scripts are as condensed as possible, so your browser doesn’t have to request dozens of files, just one or two.

We have also combined several images into one file (a CSS sprite), again, so your browser has to fetch fewer files. Take a look at the image below for an example.

CSS sprite social media

Technology Bloggers social icons CSS sprite.

The trouble is, we only have control over internal files. I can’t go and reduce the Tweet button script and add it to one of our existing files, as it is controlled by Twitter, and served via their servers.

Lazy Loading Images

Sometimes slimming down isn’t enough, so one way to prevent the initial load becoming verbose is to delay the loading of images not in view. We use a WordPress plugin called Lazy Load, which only loads images just before they come into view. So if the page has five megabytes of images to load, and four are below the fold, then when the page loads, you will only have to wait for one megabytes worth of images to load; if you don’t scroll down, the other four never get loaded.

Lazy loading images can significantly help improve page load time, as images are usually the biggest files that a website loads, so only loading the vital ones really speeds things up!

Lazy Loading Social Buttons

As I mentioned above, one of the biggest strains on loading is external code, specifically social buttons and sharing buttons.

For a long time now, the ability to offer you the potential to share content and follow us via social media has come at a high price – in terms of loading time. However after a lot of coding and hours of tweaking, our social buttons are now just a tiny (in size) image.

If you take a look at our sidebar, the social buttons sill look very similar to before – Facebook like, Twitter follow and Google Plus recommend all still there – however they now only load the external scripts if you mouse over them. This removes a huge delay when you first load a page, and means we can provide these buttons on every page of the site, with a much smaller speed loss.

At the top of articles, the social buttons there now also load lazily, and only fetch code from the networks when you mouse over the button images.

Lazy loading sharing buttons.

Technology Bloggers delayed loading social buttons.

Lazy loading social media buttons has dramatically improved the speed of Technology Bloggers, and still enables you to share content when and how you choose.

%CODETWEETTB6%

What is your view on delayed loading?

Which social buttons do you want on the blog?

Technology Bloggers is a community blog, therefore it is only right that the community are consulted on the decisions made.

My question to you is which social networks do you use, and which would you like to be able to connect with on the blog?

There are four main places you can get social on our Technology Bloggers at the moment: the first is the social icons in the header; the second is our social buttons on the sidebar; the third is the social buttons at the top of articles; and the forth is the social icons at the bottom of articles. Check out the image below to see them all.

Social Icons

Technology Bloggers social icons and buttons

My worry is, that we are not providing the buttons/icons you want. I just assume that everyone wants Facebook and Twitter, but do you use them?

In the image above you can see all of the buttons we provide you with. I never really thought we had that many, but putting them all together, there are a lot!

If I know what everyone uses, I can get rid of any unnecessary buttons, and potentially add some more useful ones in.

Which social buttons do you want? Let me know in the comments.

Here are some ideas:

  • Google: Google +1; Google+ Share; Google Buzz
  • Facebook: Facebook Like; Facebook Share
  • Twitter: Twitter Follow; Twitter Tweet; TweetMeme
  • Buffer
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • DZone
  • StumbleUpon
  • Topsy
  • Digg
  • Delicious
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • DesignBump
  • Serpd
  • TheWebBlend
  • BlogEngage
  • Pinterest
  • Flattr

Is there really that much diversity on the internet?

The internet is big right? Okay it is massive. With that massiveness one naturally associates extreme diversity. Don’t get me wrong, across the entire internet, there is amazing variation, with billions of people adding their spin to the net.

What I am going to investigate in this post though is how diverse the ‘main’ internet is. What I mean by that is the internet that we use every day. How diverse is the most regularly used/visited content? Is there really as much choice as we think, or is the majority of the internet dominated by a few firms?


In order to go about this research I am going to use Alexa, who gather statistics on websites traffic. For most sites, the data isn’t that accurate, however for really busy sites, the numbers are so great, the reliability of the data is much higher, hence why I can use it.

Alexa's Logo

Google

According to Alexa, Google.com is the most visited site on the web. How could it not be? Alexa estimates that 50% of all internet users visited Google.com in the last three months. Second on the list for most visited sites is Facebook, which is trailing with just 45% of internet users visiting the site.

Remember however that is just Google.com, Google has a massive monopoly over the internet. In the 100 most visited sites on the web, 18 of the sites are owned by Google – 16 localised sites, Google.com and GoogleUserContent.com (the site you see when there is an error finding/displaying a page).

Google undoubtedly has reduced diversity on the internet, having such a monopoly on the sites we all visit. The thing is, it isn’t just 18 sites. Google also owns YouTube and (the third most visited site on the net) Blogspot which is ranked 10th, Blogger at 47 (Blogger and Blogspot are now one) and Blogspot.in (India) ranked 73. That means 21 of the most visited sites on the net belong to Google, meaning it owns more than one fifth of the ‘main’ internet.

Googlite Logo

Google’s dominance on the web suggests that a lot of us are Googlites!

Can you call the internet diverse, when in the top one hundred sites, one firm owns more than a fifth of all sites? Maybe, what does the rest of the field look like?

Microsoft

Unsurprisingly, the company that is arguable Google’s main rival is in second place. Yahoo and Microsoft are currently in a ‘Search Alliance’ therefore restricting competition, so I am going to count them in the list of sites that Microsoft owns/influences. Here is the list of sites that Microsoft owns/influences which are top 100 websites:

  • Yahoo.com – Ranked 3rd
  • Live.com – Ranked 7th
  • Yahoo.co.jp – Ranked 16th
  • MSN.com – Ranked 17th
  • Bing.com – Ranked 29th
  • Microsoft.com – Ranked 30th – ironic how it is lower many of the other sites it owns!
  • Flickr.com – Ranked 53rd and Yahoo owned

Therefore Microsoft own/influence 7 of the top 100 sites. Add that to Google’s 21, and 28 of the top sites on the net are owned by two firms. More than a quarter.

I am starting to think the ‘main’ internet is not as diverse as one may first assume.

Amazon

Next on the list of internet giants comes Amazon. Amazon.com is ranked 10th, whilst Amazon Germany (Amazon.de) is ranked 91st and Amazon Japan (Amazon.co.jp) is 95th. Amazon also owns the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) which is the 50th most visited site. Amazon owns 4 of the top 100 sites.

Amazon's Logo32 sites gone.

Alibaba Group

The Alibaba Group is a privately owned Chinese business, which owns Alibaba.com, Tmall (tmall.com), Taobao (Taobao.com) and Sogou.com. The group therefore account for four of the sites that make up what I am calling the ‘main internet’.

36 sites taken by just 4 companies. How diverse is our internet?

eBay

Next we come to eBay.com which sits 23rd on the list of top 100 sites. eBay International AG (ebay.de) is in 80th place, followed by eBay UK (ebay.co.uk) in 86th. eBay also owns PayPal (paypal.com) which is ranked 46th.

eBay steals another 4 sites, leaving just 60 of our hundred left, and so far only 5 firms are involved.

Time Warner

CNN (cnn.com) AOL (aol.co.uk) and The Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com) are all sites owned by Time Warner. Time Warner is the sixth business involved now, leaving just 57 sites.

WordPress

The blogging platform WordPress (wordpress.com) is ranked 19th, and its brother, which allows users to host the content management system on their own site (wordpress.org) is ranked 83rd.

The Official WordPress LogoThere goes another two sites, meaning just 55 left, and only seven players so far.

Twitter

Ranked number 8 on the list is Twitter, however its URL shortener (t.co) is ranked 31st, meaning Twitter is also one of the big players in the top 100 sites, arguably with some form of domination over the internet.

Twitter's Logo47 sites of the top 100 accounted for and a mere eight organisations involved.

The Rest

Of the final 53 sites, 5 are adult only sites leaving 48 sites – although many of these either are a part of, or are a much bigger group.

Some familiar faces appear in the other 48 sites, Facebook (2nd), Wikipedia (6th), LinkedIn (11th), Apple (34th), Tumblr (37th),  Pinterest (47th), BBC Online (48th), Ask (54th), AVG (62nd),  Adobe Systems Incorporated (67th), About.com (81st), ESPN (82nd),  Go Daddy (85th), Netflix (89th),  The Pirate Bay (92nd) and CNET (97th).

Remove these very well known, well established, and massive brands, and we are left with 32 sites – less than a third. Of the remaining sites, around half are Chinese, showing the growing influence and usage of the internet in China.

My Verdict

In this post I have established that of the sites we visit most regularly, 47 are owned by just eight organisations. Does that really represent the freedom that we all believe the internet offers?

I was surprised by the type of content, and the limited number of different sites that there are in the global top 100. It would seem that the most visited sites consist of search engines, social media sites and news websites. Interesting statistics.

So, what is your verdict on how diverse the internet we use everyday is? I personally am not quite as convinced as I was before writing this article that the internet is quite as free and diverse as we all believe.

Please note these rankings are changing all the time, and all content was correct according to Alexa.com at the time of writing – the 6th of July 2012.

Pinterest Shares Photos and Attracts Blog Visitors

Pinterest's Logo

I have not had a lot of experience with Pinterest yet, but one night last week, I put up a bulletin board with photos from recipes on my quinoa blog, and I was impressed with the initial response. I received about a dozen email notifications within minutes. New people were following me or my quinoa recipe board; pinners were repinning my photos.
Referal traffic down to PinterestThe next day, my analytics showed nineteen new visitors to my blog from Pinterest. Mind you, all I did was “pin” the photos, I didn’t go out looking for followers or asking for people to like me.

I haven’t figured out how to fully exploit this yet. Pinterest is a very photo-oriented social media sharing site, where each photo is also a link back to an original blog post or web page.

Recipe Blogs on Pinterest

For a cooking blog, it is a no brainer. Pin a photo of each recipe and your board looks like this. (You can click on the photo to see how this looks on the site.)

An example of an online pinboardNotice that each photo bears the domain name, great for branding.

I imagine any blog could benefit from setting up a board for its blog posts. You could even create category boards if you wanted to.

Pinning is very easy. You can click and drag a Pin It icon to put in your bookmarks toolbar.

When you see a post you want to pin:

  • Highlight and copy the text you will associate with the photo.
  • Then click Pin It icon in your bookmark toolbar.

In the window that pops up:

  • Choose the exact image you want;
  • Choose the correct board;
  • Verify text is already auto-filled with the text you copied. If not you will have to fill it in.

I set up my board in about fifteen minutes. Now that it is in place, I can add pinning to the list of promotional tasks I will do for each new blog post.

Pinterest is still in beta and requires an invitation to join. If you would like to test it for organizing your favorite visuals on the web or promoting your blog, please feel to ask in the comments. I will send a Pinterest invite to the email you use to comment.

If you have experience using Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog, please comment below and let us know whether you feel it adds value.