Find out why your site is slow and how you can fix it.

Ever get turned off by a website because it takes too long to load? Even the most patient viewers start getting frustrated by 5-10 seconds. If you aren’t on a dial up connection, there is no excuse for slow load times. Luckily, there are two great tools out there that can help you speed up your website.

Firebug

The first tool you might already be familiar with, Firebug (if not, prepare to have your mind blown). Firebug is a great tool on Firefox for debugging, breaking down and testing styles on your website. It also allows you to monitor how things are loading into your site.

Firebug Network Tab

The Network Monitoring tab gives you a nice time line of when things are loading into your site. Hover over a file to get more specific info.

To use the Firebug Network Monitoring, first you must have Firebug plugin installed on Firefox. Once Firebug is installed, enable Network Monitoring by clicking the arrow to the right of the Net tab and choosing “enable”. Now refresh the page you want to monitor (while Firebug and the Net tab are open). As the page loads, each file will show a progress bar relative to all the other files.

From this data you can determine what exactly is slowing down your site. If an image is taking a long time to load, consider reducing it’s file size or creating a sprite. Requesting a lot of .css or .js files? Maybe consider condensing them into one larger file to reduce the HTTP requests. If you are having trouble deciphering all this data, I would recommend trying out YSlow.

YSlow

The Yahoo Performance team has identified a set of rules that affect performance on web pages. YSlow integrates with Firebug to determine whether your site complies with these rules. If not, it will give you recommendations on how to improve it.

YSlow Example

If you don't feel comfortable analyzing the data in Firebug, let YSlow do it for you!

YSlow is another Firefox plugin, but in order to use it you must have Firebug installed first. Once Firebug is installed, you can download YSlow for free here. YSlow will now appear as a tab inside Firebug. Open up the tab and choose “Run Test” to try it out.

YSlow will analyze your site and give you grades on your performance. If you find yourself getting an F in a certain category, YSlow will offer a recommendation and reference link with more information. If you want to find out more about YSlow, check out the documentation.

As the web designer/developer it is your responsibility to tweak your site for optimum performance. So, before you start blaming the server or client’s internet connection, check out your site with FIrebug and YSlow. Even if you aren’t having any issues with your site, it is still worth checking out Firebug Network Monitoring and YSlow. There are always way to improve performance and learn something new.