Making Pages Appear to Load Faster

How long a web page takes to display completely on the screen depends on how big all of the files that are used by the page are, how many of those files have already been copied to your visitor's computer in order to display prior pages, and how fast their internet connection is. You have no control over their connection speed, you have little control over what files are preloaded since you can't guarantee that your visitors will visit your pages in any particular order, and you can only make the files that your pages use so small.

Once you have made your page load as quickly as you can by reducing file sizes, you can give it the appearance of loading even faster if you code your web page in a certain way.

To begin with, many browsers do not display the content of tables until everything used by the table has been loaded. If you use tables to control your page layout then you are better off using a number of small tables to arrange the positioning of things on your page instead of using one big table. Doing this will enable those tables that have fully loaded to display on the screen while the other tables are still loading. Once all of the tables that are visible in the browser window have loaded the page will appear to have finished loading even though there are more tables further down the page that are still loading. Your visitors will be unaware that the page is still loading unless they scroll down the page quickly enough to see that the bottom of the page isn't there yet.

As an alternative to using tables to control your page layout you might consider using stylesheet positioning commands. Not only are stylesheet commands to control your page layout slightly smaller in most cases than the equivalent layout done using tables but you also have the opportunity to place these commands into an external stylesheet meaning that the second and subsequent pages from your site will load even faster since your visitor has already downloaded the stylesheet.

Another thing that will help to give your pages the appearance that they load faster is to always specify the width and height of images even though you have already optimized the images to the required display size. Doing this means that the browser knows exactly how much space to allocate to the image even though the image hasn't loaded yet. This will result in the rest of the page being placed into the correct position and the page will not be constantly being rearranged as each of the images on the page finishes loading.

Still on the subject of images. If you use JPEG images on your web page you might like to consider specifying that the images should be interlaced. This will make the image fractionally larger but will mean that instead of the image loading from the top down the image will appear to load all at once but very blurry with the image gradually becoming clearer as the image loads. Having the image load this way will give the appearance that the image is loaded even though it still hasn't finished loading completely.

Using these techniques will not make your page load much faster if any but will give the appearance to many of your visitors that the page has finished loading where in fact it hasn't finished loading completely. This will encourage more of your visitors to stay on your site rather than looking elsewhere.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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