How Fast Is Your Website?

By Joe Dysart

The Internet has come a long way since sites were slow-loading, technological homages to their creators, but the hard fact remains that most websites today still have not been optimized for speed.

The result: The Web pages you’ve worked so hard to build may be bypassed by frustrated parents and other visitors who don’t have the time or patience to navigate a slow-loading site -- especially if they’re accessing Internet with a dial-up connection.

“It is astounding how negatively users react to slow sites,” says Jakob Nielson, a principal in the Nielsen Norman Group (www.nngroup.com), a Web design consultant. “If a site is slow, it communicates contempt for users and their time. Users assume that additional pages will be slow as well, and that it will be painful to navigate the site.”

Fortunately, a cottage industry has sprung up that specializes in ensuring that websites download as quickly as possible. Andrew B. King, author of Speed Up Your Site and founder of Web Site Optimization, LLC (www.websiteoptimization.com), is an accelerate-the-Web evangelist.

King’s mantra: Limit page sizes so that downloads over a dial-up connection take no longer than 8.6 seconds (or a page size of about 30K), and you’ll ensure that your site is a breeze to navigate.

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