kc website design kent - cloudflareRecently, while sifting through Google Analytics data, I noticed that page load times on this particular website design were over 10 secs. This is a long time for a page to load and well over the recommended times. Google uses page speed as a metric now and so slow page load times could have an impact on search listings so having a fast website design is important.

After optimising javascript loading and images as much as possible the website design was still loading quite slowly. To begin with it seemed like the issue could be with WordPress but after a few tests it looked like static html pages were loading very quickly but php files were not. Could this be a server issue? I contacted the hosting company but they seemed to think the load times were ok which could have been a symptom of me being in the UK but the website being hosted in the US. The hosting company didn’t seem to think that would be a problem though so I looked at the website design files and tried to optimise some more. There’s only so much you can do with a website design to optimise speed and everything possible had been done including minifying CSS/JS/HTML, optimising script loading and images, reducing plugins in WordPress, etc. One plugin issue I did come across was the WordPress super cache plugin seemed to be increasing the initial load times so I swapped this for the ‘Quick Cache’ plugin which seemed to make a difference. While looking at the load times in detail it was obvious that the biggest lag was the initial ‘time to load’ which is the time it takes for the server to issue its first response back to the browser. Some of these times for this website design were over 4 secs which seemed a long time to me. With no more help from the hosting company it was time to look at other options.

I cam across an article talking about CDN delivery systems for whole websites which I thought might be worth looking at. CDN’s are well know for serving images and external javascript files but less so for serving whole websites. Cloudflare looked like a very interesting system and with a free account for 1 website it’s easy to test. Essentially, what Cloudflare does is take your DNS and route it through Cloudflare first where it stores cached files of your website. You have full control over all the speed settings and there’s the added bonus of security threat detection as well which they filter out before anything hits your non-cahced pages in your website design. Its a bit scary swapping nameservers and DNS settings but Cloudflare make the process very easy and within 24 hrs my website design was being severed by Cloudflare.

Did it make a difference? Yes, quite a big difference actually. Page load times are now down below 4 secs for the quite large homepage design and much less for the internal pages. For a free service its actually very good and well worth testing out. I’ll keep an eye on my Google stats over the next few weeks to see if average page load times start to come down and hopefully search rankings will go up as well.