Make fewer HTTP requests
Decreasing the number of components on a page reduces the number of HTTP requests required to render the page, resulting in faster page loads. Some ways to reduce the number of components include: combine files, combine multiple scripts into one script, combine multiple CSS files into one style sheet, and use CSS Sprites and image maps.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
User proximity to web servers impacts response times. Deploying content across multiple geographically dispersed servers(CDN) helps users perceive that pages are loading faster.
Avoid empty src or href
You may expect a browser to do nothing when it encounters an empty image src. However, it is not the case in most browsers. IE makes a request to the directory in which the page is located; Safari, Chrome, Firefox 3 and earlier make a request to the actual page itself. This behavior could possibly corrupt user data, waste server computing cycles generating a page that will never be viewed, and in the worst case, cripple your servers by sending a large amount of unexpected traffic.
Add Expires headers
Web pages are becoming increasingly complex with more scripts, style sheets, images, and Flash on them. A first-time visit to a page may require several HTTP requests to load all the components. By using Expires headers these components become cacheable, which avoids unnecessary HTTP requests on subsequent page views. Expires headers are most often associated with images, but they can and should be used on all page components including scripts, style sheets, and Flash.
Compress components with gzip
Compression reduces response times by reducing the size of the HTTP response. Gzip is the most popular and effective compression method currently available and generally reduces the response size by about 70%. Approximately 90% of today’s Internet traffic travels through browsers that claim to support gzip.
Put CSS at top
Moving style sheets to the document HEAD element helps pages appear to load quicker since this allows pages to render progressively.
Avoid CSS expressions
CSS expressions (supported in IE beginning with Version 5) are a powerful, and dangerous, way to dynamically set CSS properties. These expressions are evaluated frequently: when the page is rendered and resized, when the page is scrolled, and even when the user moves the mouse over the page. These frequent evaluations degrade the user experience.
Reduce DNS lookups
The Domain Name System (DNS) maps hostnames to IP addresses, just like phonebooks map people’s names to their phone numbers. When you type URL http://www.yahoo.com into the browser, the browser contacts a DNS resolver that returns the server’s IP address. DNS has a cost; typically it takes 20 to 120 milliseconds for it to look up the IP address for a hostname. The browser cannot download anything from the host until the lookup completes.
Minification removes unnecessary characters from a file to reduce its size, thereby improving load times. When a file is minified, comments and unneeded white space characters (space, newline, and tab) are removed. This improves response time since the size of the download files is reduced.
Avoid URL redirects
URL redirects are made using HTTP status codes 301 and 302. They tell the browser to go to another location. Inserting a redirect between the user and the final HTML document delays everything on the page since nothing on the page can be rendered and no components can be downloaded until the HTML document arrives.
Configure entity tags (ETags)
Entity tags (ETags) are a mechanism web servers and the browser use to determine whether a component in the browser’s cache matches one on the origin server. Since ETags are typically constructed using attributes that make them unique to a specific server hosting a site, the tags will not match when a browser gets the original component from one server and later tries to validate that component on a different server.
Make AJAX cacheable
Use GET for AJAX requests
When using the XMLHttpRequest object, the browser implements POST in two steps: (1) send the headers, and (2) send the data. It is better to use GET instead of POST since GET sends the headers and the data together (unless there are many cookies). IE’s maximum URL length is 2 KB, so if you are sending more than this amount of data you may not be able to use GET.
Reduce the number of DOM elements
Avoid HTTP 404 (Not Found) error
Making an HTTP request and receiving a 404 (Not Found) error is expensive and degrades the user experience. Some sites have helpful 404 messages (for example, “Did you mean …?”), which may assist the user, but server resources are still wasted.
Reduce cookie size
HTTP cookies are used for authentication, personalization, and other purposes. Cookie information is exchanged in the HTTP headers between web servers and the browser, so keeping the cookie size small minimizes the impact on response time.
Use cookie-free domains
When the browser requests a static image and sends cookies with the request, the server ignores the cookies. These cookies are unnecessary network traffic. To workaround this problem, make sure that static components are requested with cookie-free requests by creating a subdomain and hosting them there.
Do not scale images in HTML
Web page designers sometimes set image dimensions by using the width and height attributes of the HTML image element. Avoid doing this since it can result in images being larger than needed. For example, if your page requires image myimg.jpg which has dimensions 240×720 but displays it with dimensions 120×360 using the width and height attributes, then the browser will download an image that is larger than necessary.
Make favicon small and cacheable
A favicon is an icon associated with a web page; this icon resides in the favicon.ico file in the server’s root. Since the browser requests this file, it needs to be present; if it is missing, the browser returns a 404 error (see “Avoid HTTP 404 (Not Found) error” above). Since favicon.ico resides in the server’s root, each time the browser requests this file, the cookies for the server’s root are sent. Making the favicon small and reducing the cookie size for the server’s root cookies improves performance for retrieving the favicon. Making favicon.ico cacheable avoids frequent requests for it.