This is not a technical review, rather an overview to help you understand the basics that effect site performance.
External Speed Influences
ISP Speed – A few years ago websites had to be built to accommodate 56k modems. No longer is this an issue. The standard now is building a site that performs well with broadband. If your end user is still on dial-up its a good chance you don’t want their business anyways. The only caveat to this principle is if your service/products are mobile related. Then you might want to build your site based on 3G Network performance.
End User Browsers – The browser you use actually does make a difference. Here’s the list of browser that perform in order to fastest to slowest.
Chrome – Everything Google does rocks.
Opera – Same goes true for Mac.
Firefox – My preferred browser because of add-ons.
IE8 – Typical results you’d expect from Microsoft.
Network Connection – Another consideration is the network your using. For example, your company has a dedicated T1 line which provides blazing speed. Every once in a while you experience delayed internet surfing. T1 lines handle one request at a time. So if one department in your company is hogging the bandwidth the rest of the company will experience slower access speeds.
Home and small office networks also experience similar issues. Wireless networks also don’t perform as well as wired networks.
Speed factors you control
Hosting – Who hosts your website is about 65% responsible for your site performance. Basic shared hosting plans provided by GoDaddy & BlueHost are an excellent choice from an economical standpoint. They provide decent speed and excellent customer service at a great price (under $7.00/month). However, a “shared hosting plan” means just that. Your sharing the server with potentially hundreds of other customers. So if one site on your server goes viral it could literally effect everyone elses site performance. Even to the point the server becomes overloaded with traffic and shuts down. Typically hosting companies monitor this closely. If your site is the one with too much traffic they’ll politely try to upgrade your hosting plan (since your effecting their other clients).
There’s a bunch of middle tier packages that have increased speed at slightly increased pricing. I don’t recommend this to 95% of my clients because in my opinion the speed benefit doesn’t out weigh the cost of an extra $10-20 per month. Some of these packages could be cloud plans or grid plans.
The top tier hosting is virtual servers and dedicated servers. This is where you basically purchase your own server at the hosting company. Usually the trade off on getting the best speed available is the expense and less support. The hosting company is handing over a blank canvas for you to load up and maintain.
Multimedia –Movies, flash, and an interactive website that engages the end user sounds fantastic, however, better be prepared to upgrade your hosting plan if your looking to provide this kind of experience.
Video alone comes in a number of formats that balance speed performance and picture/audio quality. Flash adds an interactive flair to websites at the cost of speed performance. And images need to be optimized to maximize speed while retaining quality.
Correct Coding – Coding issues can effect site performance for a number of reasons. Its very easy to check your coding by using W3C validation . If you have under 30 errors you’re probably OK. Over 30 and you’re most likely suffering some speed loss.
WordPress Specific – WP Super Cache is a WordPress plugin that increases speed by caching your static pages and images. While I’ve had mixed results with WP Super Cache some people swear by it.
Advance Speed Tips – Yahoo summarizes 30 additional advance tips to increase website speed. In most cases these advance tweaks are not needed to realize good site performance. If your experiencing 50,000 plus hits a month then its a good idea to request a quote to take advantage of all these tweaks to make your site fly.
Free Speed Analysis – If your curious how you site measures up send me an email and I’ll provide you with a free speed analysis.