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We can't wait to meet you. And keep browsing to find new attractions to explore on your next break! Best Western Clifton Hotel. Open Weekend at Hush Heath Winery. Most of this time is tied up in downloading all the components in the page: Reducing the number of components in turn reduces the number of HTTP requests required to render the page. This is the key to faster pages. One way to reduce the number of components in the page is to simplify the page's design. But is there a way to build pages with richer content while also achieving fast response times?

Here are some techniques for reducing the number of HTTP requests, while still supporting rich page designs. Combined files are a way to reduce the number of HTTP requests by combining all scripts into a single script, and similarly combining all CSS into a single stylesheet.

Combining files is more challenging when the scripts and stylesheets vary from page to page, but making this part of your release process improves response times.

CSS Sprites are the preferred method for reducing the number of image requests. Combine your background images into a single image and use the CSS background-image and background-position properties to display the desired image segment.

Image maps combine multiple images into a single image. The overall size is about the same, but reducing the number of HTTP requests speeds up the page. Image maps only work if the images are contiguous in the page, such as a navigation bar. Defining the coordinates of image maps can be tedious and error prone.

Using image maps for navigation is not accessible too, so it's not recommended. Inline images use the data: URL scheme to embed the image data in the actual page. This can increase the size of your HTML document. Combining inline images into your cached stylesheets is a way to reduce HTTP requests and avoid increasing the size of your pages. Inline images are not yet supported across all major browsers.

Reducing the number of HTTP requests in your page is the place to start. This is the most important guideline for improving performance for first time visitors. Making your page fast for these first time visitors is key to a better user experience. The user's proximity to your web server has an impact on response times.

Deploying your content across multiple, geographically dispersed servers will make your pages load faster from the user's perspective. But where should you start? As a first step to implementing geographically dispersed content, don't attempt to redesign your web application to work in a distributed architecture.

Depending on the application, changing the architecture could include daunting tasks such as synchronizing session state and replicating database transactions across server locations. Attempts to reduce the distance between users and your content could be delayed by, or never pass, this application architecture step. This is the Performance Golden Rule.

Rather than starting with the difficult task of redesigning your application architecture, it's better to first disperse your static content. This not only achieves a bigger reduction in response times, but it's easier thanks to content delivery networks. A content delivery network CDN is a collection of web servers distributed across multiple locations to deliver content more efficiently to users.

The server selected for delivering content to a specific user is typically based on a measure of network proximity. For example, the server with the fewest network hops or the server with the quickest response time is chosen. For start-up companies and private web sites, the cost of a CDN service can be prohibitive, but as your target audience grows larger and becomes more global, a CDN is necessary to achieve fast response times. Switching to a CDN is a relatively easy code change that will dramatically improve the speed of your web site.

Web page designs are getting richer and richer, which means more scripts, stylesheets, images, and Flash in the page. A first-time visitor to your page may have to make several HTTP requests, but by using the Expires header you make those components cacheable.

This avoids unnecessary HTTP requests on subsequent page views. Expires headers are most often used with images, but they should be used on all components including scripts, stylesheets, and Flash components. Browsers and proxies use a cache to reduce the number and size of HTTP requests, making web pages load faster. A web server uses the Expires header in the HTTP response to tell the client how long a component can be cached. This is a far future Expires header, telling the browser that this response won't be stale until April 15, If your server is Apache, use the ExpiresDefault directive to set an expiration date relative to the current date.

This example of the ExpiresDefault directive sets the Expires date 10 years out from the time of the request. Keep in mind, if you use a far future Expires header you have to change the component's filename whenever the component changes.

Using a far future Expires header affects page views only after a user has already visited your site. It has no effect on the number of HTTP requests when a user visits your site for the first time and the browser's cache is empty. Therefore the impact of this performance improvement depends on how often users hit your pages with a primed cache.

A "primed cache" already contains all of the components in the page. We measured this at Yahoo! By using a far future Expires header, you increase the number of components that are cached by the browser and re-used on subsequent page views without sending a single byte over the user's Internet connection. The time it takes to transfer an HTTP request and response across the network can be significantly reduced by decisions made by front-end engineers.

It's true that the end-user's bandwidth speed, Internet service provider, proximity to peering exchange points, etc. But there are other variables that affect response times. Compression reduces response times by reducing the size of the HTTP response. If the web server sees this header in the request, it may compress the response using one of the methods listed by the client. The web server notifies the web client of this via the Content-Encoding header in the response.

Gzip is the most popular and effective compression method at this time. The only other compression format you're likely to see is deflate, but it's less effective and less popular. If you use Apache, the module configuring gzip depends on your version: There are known issues with browsers and proxies that may cause a mismatch in what the browser expects and what it receives with regard to compressed content. Fortunately, these edge cases are dwindling as the use of older browsers drops off.

The Apache modules help out by adding appropriate Vary response headers automatically. Servers choose what to gzip based on file type, but are typically too limited in what they decide to compress. Most web sites gzip their HTML documents. It's also worthwhile to gzip your scripts and stylesheets, but many web sites miss this opportunity. Image and PDF files should not be gzipped because they are already compressed. Trying to gzip them not only wastes CPU but can potentially increase file sizes.

Gzipping as many file types as possible is an easy way to reduce page weight and accelerate the user experience. While researching performance at Yahoo! This is because putting stylesheets in the HEAD allows the page to render progressively. Front-end engineers that care about performance want a page to load progressively; that is, we want the browser to display whatever content it has as soon as possible.

This is especially important for pages with a lot of content and for users on slower Internet connections. The importance of giving users visual feedback, such as progress indicators, has been well researched and documented. In our case the HTML page is the progress indicator! When the browser loads the page progressively the header, the navigation bar, the logo at the top, etc. This improves the overall user experience. The problem with putting stylesheets near the bottom of the document is that it prohibits progressive rendering in many browsers, including Internet Explorer.

These browsers block rendering to avoid having to redraw elements of the page if their styles change. The user is stuck viewing a blank white page. The problem caused by scripts is that they block parallel downloads. If you serve your images from multiple hostnames, you can get more than two downloads to occur in parallel.

While a script is downloading, however, the browser won't start any other downloads, even on different hostnames. In some situations it's not easy to move scripts to the bottom. If, for example, the script uses document.

There might also be scoping issues. In many cases, there are ways to workaround these situations. An alternative suggestion that often comes up is to use deferred scripts. In Internet Explorer, the script may be deferred, but not as much as desired. If a script can be deferred, it can also be moved to the bottom of the page. That will make your web pages load faster.

They were supported in Internet Explorer starting with version 5, but were deprecated starting with IE8. As an example, the background color could be set to alternate every hour using CSS expressions:.

As shown here, the expression method accepts a JavaScript expression. The expression method is ignored by other browsers, so it is useful for setting properties in Internet Explorer needed to create a consistent experience across browsers. The problem with expressions is that they are evaluated more frequently than most people expect.

Not only are they evaluated when the page is rendered and resized, but also when the page is scrolled and even when the user moves the mouse over the page. Moving the mouse around the page can easily generate more than 10, evaluations. One way to reduce the number of times your CSS expression is evaluated is to use one-time expressions, where the first time the expression is evaluated it sets the style property to an explicit value, which replaces the CSS expression.

If the style property must be set dynamically throughout the life of the page, using event handlers instead of CSS expressions is an alternative approach.

If you must use CSS expressions, remember that they may be evaluated thousands of times and could affect the performance of your page. Many of these performance rules deal with how external components are managed. However, before these considerations arise you should ask a more basic question: Using external files in the real world generally produces faster pages because the JavaScript and CSS files are cached by the browser.

This factor, although difficult to quantify, can be gauged using various metrics. If users on your site have multiple page views per session and many of your pages re-use the same scripts and stylesheets, there is a greater potential benefit from cached external files. Many web sites fall in the middle of these metrics.

The only exception where inlining is preferable is with home pages, such as Yahoo! Home pages that have few perhaps only one page view per session may find that inlining JavaScript and CSS results in faster end-user response times.

For front pages that are typically the first of many page views, there are techniques that leverage the reduction of HTTP requests that inlining provides, as well as the caching benefits achieved through using external files. One such technique is to inline JavaScript and CSS in the front page, but dynamically download the external files after the page has finished loading. Subsequent pages would reference the external files that should already be in the browser's cache.

When you type www. DNS has a cost. The browser can't download anything from this hostname until the DNS lookup is completed.

DNS lookups are cached for better performance. This caching can occur on a special caching server, maintained by the user's ISP or local area network, but there is also caching that occurs on the individual user's computer. Most browsers have their own caches, separate from the operating system's cache. As long as the browser keeps a DNS record in its own cache, it doesn't bother the operating system with a request for the record.

Firefox caches DNS lookups for 1 minute, controlled by the network. Fasterfox changes this to 1 hour. When the client's DNS cache is empty for both the browser and the operating system , the number of DNS lookups is equal to the number of unique hostnames in the web page. This includes the hostnames used in the page's URL, images, script files, stylesheets, Flash objects, etc.

Reducing the number of unique hostnames reduces the number of DNS lookups. Reducing the number of unique hostnames has the potential to reduce the amount of parallel downloading that takes place in the page. Avoiding DNS lookups cuts response times, but reducing parallel downloads may increase response times. My guideline is to split these components across at least two but no more than four hostnames.

This results in a good compromise between reducing DNS lookups and allowing a high degree of parallel downloads. Minification is the practice of removing unnecessary characters from code to reduce its size thereby improving load times. When code is minified all comments are removed, as well as unneeded white space characters space, newline, and tab.

In the case of JavaScript, this improves response time performance because the size of the downloaded file is reduced. Obfuscation is an alternative optimization that can be applied to source code.

It's more complex than minification and thus more likely to generate bugs as a result of the obfuscation step itself. In a survey of ten top U. Although obfuscation has a higher size reduction, minifying JavaScript is less risky. As the use and size of JavaScript and CSS increases, so will the savings gained by minifying your code. Redirects are accomplished using the and status codes.

Here's an example of the HTTP headers in a response:. The browser automatically takes the user to the URL specified in the Location field. All the information necessary for a redirect is in the headers. The body of the response is typically empty.

Despite their names, neither a nor a response is cached in practice unless additional headers, such as Expires or Cache-Control , indicate it should be. The meta refresh tag and JavaScript are other ways to direct users to a different URL, but if you must do a redirect, the preferred technique is to use the standard 3xx HTTP status codes, primarily to ensure the back button works correctly.

The main thing to remember is that redirects slow down the user experience. Inserting a redirect between the user and the HTML document delays everything in the page since nothing in the page can be rendered and no components can start being downloaded until the HTML document has arrived. One of the most wasteful redirects happens frequently and web developers are generally not aware of it. For example, going to http: Connecting an old web site to a new one is another common use for redirects.

Others include connecting different parts of a website and directing the user based on certain conditions type of browser, type of user account, etc. Using a redirect to connect two web sites is simple and requires little additional coding. Although using redirects in these situations reduces the complexity for developers, it degrades the user experience. It hurts performance to include the same JavaScript file twice in one page. This isn't as unusual as you might think.

A review of the ten top U.

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