Over the last few weeks I've been quietly making a few technical changes to the site. For those of you who are interested in such things, I did a short writeup of my actions. If you couldn't care less about web technology, I'm still interested in hearing if you think the site's speed has improved!
- As a first step, I used the excellent Firebug extension for Firefox to determine the loading time of the individual elements on our pages using Firebug's Net module. Firebug does many other useful things - if you're a web developer you should take a look at it!
- Added mod_expires to the webserver. I asked our ISP to install the mod_expires Apache module on our webserver. Mod_expires sets the Expires HTTP header in server responses for specific filetypes which allows your browser to do better client-side caching. Initial visits will not be faster, but subsequent pageviews should be noticably quicker.
- Turned on gzip encoding in WordPress. This was not trivial as the standard WordPress gzip option was interfering with our caching plugin. I found a fix for this though and ran a few tests: the filesize of our HTML code is reduced by around 84%: from around 56KB for the homepage to 9KB. Especially users on slow connections should notice this! (Of course, if your webserver has mod_gzip you can also use that instead of this technique).
- Removed the Lightbox plugin.The Lightbox plugin was responsible for the fancypants image-enlarge effect. It looked great, but I was starting to really dislike how you had to close an enlarged image. Oh, and of course dropping it shaved off a few milliseconds of loading time as well ;-).
I'll keep looking for ways to improve BlenderNation's speed (within our current hosting package). If you have any suggestions I'd be happy to hear them!
Of course, the big question is: did you notice any improvements lately? How's the site speed for you now? Fast enough? Still too slow?