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How Optimising Network Requests Can Supercharge Your Website Speed: An In-Depth Guide

Vlad Niculescu
Vlad Niculescu

CEO @ Flowpoint

27 October 2023

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How Optimising Network Requests Can Supercharge Your Website Speed: An In-Depth Guide

Introduction

In the digital age, speed is not just a luxury; it's a necessity. Slow websites can lead to higher bounce rates, lower conversions, and ultimately, lost revenue. As marketing professionals and business owners, it's crucial to understand the role of network requests in website speed. These are the digital conversations between a user's browser and your website's server, and optimizing them can make your website load like a dream.

Why Speed Matters

Speed is not just about quick loading times; it's about maintaining user engagement and maximizing conversions. Google has found that a one-second delay in mobile load times can impact conversion rates by up to 20% (source). In a world where every second counts, optimizing network requests can give you the competitive edge.

The Basics of Network Requests

Think of network requests as a series of back-and-forths between a customer (the browser) and a shop (the server). The customer asks for a product, the shop fetches it, and the transaction is complete. The quicker this exchange, the happier the customer.

How to Optimise Network Requests

1. Reduce the Number of Requests

What It Means

Each element on your website—be it an image, a script, or a stylesheet—requires a separate network request. The more elements, the more requests, and the slower the page load time.

Real-World Example

Consider using CSS sprites, which combine multiple images into one. This way, the browser fetches a single image and uses only parts of it where needed. Websites like Airbnb employ this technique to speed up their load times (source).

2. Compress Data

What It Means

Data compression reduces the size of your files, making them quicker to load. It's like vacuum-packing your clothes before a trip; it's the same content, just more efficiently packed.

Real-World Example

Gzip is a popular tool for this. Yahoo reported a 70% reduction in file size when they implemented Gzip compression (source).

3. Use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

What It Means

CDNs store copies of your website on multiple servers around the world, ensuring that users access the site from a nearby location, reducing load time.

Real-World Example

Netflix uses CDNs to make sure that when you stream a movie, it's coming from a nearby server, thereby reducing buffering times (source).

4. Cache Assets

What It Means

Caching stores frequently-used files on a user's device. When they revisit your site, these files don't have to be reloaded, which speeds up access.

Real-World Example

Amazon uses caching to store images and product descriptions so that repeat visitors experience quicker load times. This can reduce load times by up to 70% (source).

5. Prioritize Critical Requests

What It Means

Not all network requests are created equal. Some are more important for the initial display of your website. By prioritizing these, you can improve the perceived speed of your site.

Real-World Example

The BBC website loads the headline and the first paragraph of an article before anything else, allowing users to start reading while the rest of the content loads (source).

Conclusion

Optimizing network requests is akin to streamlining any process: the devil is in the details. By implementing these strategies, you can significantly improve your website's performance, leading to happier customers, higher engagement, and increased revenue. In the fast-paced digital marketplace, every millisecond you shave off your website's load time can translate into business success.


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