Optimization. It’s been a hot topic among developers for a while and now it’s making its way onto agendas in the boardroom as key stakeholders begin to realize the relationship between performance and their company’s bottom line. But what exactly is optimization and why should companies care about maximizing it?
What is Optimization? The Answer Might Surprise You.
Depending on who you ask, you’ll get different definitions of “web optimization,” but most of them will probably focus on search engine optimization. Search engine optimization (SEO) involves methods and techniques for maximizing visitors to a site by ensuring that the site appears at the top of a list of results returned by a search engine.
Although SEO has value, the type of optimization we’re discussing here is different. This type of optimization is one that directly affects site performance and the end user experience. In his book, Business at the Speed of Thought, Bill Gates writes:
The internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.
We couldn’t agree more. There isn’t much you can’t do nowadays via the internet. In fact, it wields a great democratizing force – it turns every one of us into end users. As such, we can comprehend and appreciate the value of the end user’s perspective.
Think about the last bad experience you had with a site: What did you do? Did you wait around for bloated ads and slow loading images or did you abandon the page?
If you answered that you abandoned the page, you wouldn’t be alone. End users expect function-rich, interactive content, but they aren’t willing to wait for it. Amazon found that for every 100-millisecond delay in page load speed, their sales dropped by 1% (an amazing statistic considering that Amazon’s yearly sales totaled close to $136 billion in 2016).
The dictionary defines optimization as the process of “writing or rewriting (the instructions in a program) so as to maximize efficiency and speed in retrieval, storage, or execution.” That’s really what we’re dissecting here: maximizing efficiency and speed to deliver high-quality, rich content and media to users in the fastest way possible.
Why Prioritize Optimization? It’s Not Just an Afterthought.
In reviewing the statistics above, it’s clear that the end user experience drives the online economy. Yet many companies still treat web optimization as an afterthought. Here are a few other factors to consider about the importance of optimization:
- As technology changes, so do our habits. The way we work, bank, entertain ourselves, and shop is changing. We want to get up-to-the-minute news, but we don’t want to wait for bloated ads and other rich media to load. We expect our technology to keep up with us and we aren’t willing to compromise our experience for speed.
- Our global economy is increasingly mobile. You probably know from your own experience, mobile continues to dominate the technology industry. Whether end users engage in a multiscreen experience or sequential usage, the expectation from end users is that sites will load as quickly on their mobile devices as they do on their computers
- Loyalty has a new meaning in the digital world. Gone are the days of loyal subscribers and shoppers. Consumers find a world of choice at their literal fingertips as they can compare prices between tabs on a browser and have endless resources to get news and other media content.
Source: Ipsos Mediact
What Should You Optimize? Start Small.
It’s clear that optimization needs to be a priority – but where do you begin? Obviously, the hardware (server architecture, network setup, etc.) is important to delivery speed, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus primarily on front-end optimization. Front-end optimization is the process of making sure that everything that is loading within a browser (the client side of an application) is optimized to load as quickly as possible – while still maintaining the integrity and quality of the original asset.
Rigor Optimization can scan for around 300 performance-related defects. We know this can be overwhelming, so we recommend that you narrow your focus at first by defining a small list of internal best practices. At Rigor, we’ve also identified some key areas when considering optimization for web performance.
- Images: The easiest and lowest hanging fruit in your optimization arsenal should be to optimize images. In 2013, our performance analysis of the Alexa Top 1,000 websites revealed that 90% of the websites had unoptimized images that affected their performance. We define unoptimized as “any image that can be reduced in size without visual impact to your user,” otherwise known as “lossless optimization.” Rigor Optimization can help you optimize large PNGs, JPEGs, animated GIFs, videos (HTML5 and MP4), and other rich media – regardless of whether these are stored on your servers or are delivered via third-party providers. Rigor Optimization can easily scan your resources and display a list of offenders by severity, and also provides optimized resources for download.
- HTML: Use Rigor Optimization to scan your HTML to review areas of extraneous text, white space, etc. to help your dependent resources (CSS, images, and fonts) fire faster, and quickly identify performance problems in HTML. Watch this short video on how to use Rigor Optimization to evaluate your HTML and some best practices to use when optimizing HTML content, Web Perfectionist 101: Optimizing HTML.
Web optimization is more than just making sure your website shows up in a search engine list. The performance of your site has a direct impact on your bottom dollar and your reputation. Get started with Rigor Optimization today to identify areas of improvement and critical defects that might create slow-performing pages.
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