Do you feel the need, the need for speed? It’s an ongoing battle for coders and webmasters to make their page show up faster. A slow load time can cause the multi-tasking, instant-gratification-needing web generation to move on to another site before you have a chance to show them what your site is all about.
At Mindscape, we’ve made a number of optimizations to try and get our sites to load faster. We’ve re-indexed databases, compressed our many CSS files into a single file, enabled gzip compression on our server, and worked to improved our database queries. On the whole, it’s been very helpful.
Well, Google is coming to the rescue to make it even easier to have a fast page. According to this article, http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/28/google-page-speed-service/, Google will soon be rolling out a service that will make your site load faster. The idea is that you point your DNS to Google’s server, and it fetches and caches your data to serve it up using a number of performance best practices.
Sounds like a nice theory, but there are a few questions.
1) What about dynamic content? Will it handle that well?
According to Matthew Prince, from Cloudflare (more on Cloudflare later), the method they are using won’t work well with dynamic content. He linked to a blog on his site, but I was unable to view the blog post. So, we’ll have to wait and see if Google handles this well.
2) Will Google use this to influence their search result? It’s been said that your load times can influence your search ranking. So if that’s the case, and you can pay Google to have faster load times, does that create a conflict of interests. I may be naive, but I like to think that Google has good intentions and would not push this as a way to directly influence their search rankings.
3) How well does it work? I decided to try it out for myself to see. You can test their service here:
First, I tested www.BranderPhoto.com, my wife’s photography business. It runs on webTRAIN, Mindscape’s powerful marketing and content management system. Brander Photo is using compressed CSS, so the load time for CSS files is low, but it has a lot of big images, which can be slow.
The test was run from the California server. It certainly looks as if it helps. However, it was interesting that on the repeat visit test, the original site was faster. That tells me that our CSS compression is helping, and after having the images locally, there wasn’t much time spent waiting on files. Good job webTRAIN! See the full test here: http://goo.gl/DBVEv
On the second test, I used our current Mindscape website. It is also on webTRAIN, but never received the compressed CSS update. So, there are a lot of CSS files that need to be downloaded the first time.
Google Page Service can speed up that content by about 50%. That’s a big increase!
The full test is here: http://goo.gl/tBjZ7
It certainly appears that Google Page Service can speed up your site. I’m interested in how it will work with a dynamic site, and not just a static page.
I saw a lot of comments from the Cloudflare team in the comments to the original article. I checked out their website (http://www.cloudflare.com/overview.html), and I was intrigued. It seems that you can get what Google is offering, and more, for free. I did not see a way to test their performance increase, so I’ve updated one of our less used sites to point to Cloudfare in an attempt to see if it can do what it says. It will take some time for the DNS to update, so watch for a follow up article in a week or two.
I’m most intrigued by something that has been plaguing us for a while, bandwidth lost to crawlers and bots. Cloudflare says: “We also block threats and limit abusive bots and crawlers from wasting your bandwidth and server resources.”
Now that’s something I can get excited about!
It appears that Google’s Page Service can help speed up your website. However, you may also want to check out Cloudflare in the meantime. It also looks like both services may have trouble with sites that are dynamic or that stream video, so you’ll want to do some research or try with a low volume site, before you dive in and make the change.