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What is Web Page Latency? And How Can You Reduce It?

Alekh Verma | February 7, 2023
Latency-1

Isn’t it frustrating when you’re using a website and every click takes ages to load? We're sure you’d be annoyed with the brand and might even leave the website altogether. Nobody likes to wait for a page to load when they’re shopping on a website or clicking an internal link to get some information.

This delay that most websites face- when the time of a user making a request and that request getting processed is too much- is known as Latency. The presence of latency can vastly harm your website’s performance and even harm the brand image in the long run.

In this article, we’re going to make an effort to understand latency, its causes, how it works, why it needs to be reduced, and finally, ways to reduce latency.

Understanding Latency

When a browser sends a request to a server over a network or Internet connection, there is a delay between the server receiving the request and processing it. Typically, it is expressed in milliseconds.

There are two ways to quantify latency. RTT, or how long it takes for a request to travel from the browser to the server and back, is the first factor. The second factor is the time to first byte (TTFB), which measures how long it takes for the browser to send a request to the server and for the browser to get its first byte of data.

A simple HTML page or other single asset's latency could seem small. However, as a website's latency often comprises many requests for HTML pages as well as CSS, scripts, and media files, it can have a major negative influence on the user experience.

Why Does Latency Occur?

Distance is the primary culprit of latency. The amount of time it takes for the requested data to travel from the browser to the server and back depends on how far apart they are from one another. As a result, visitors to a website in the US will receive responses from a data center in Iowa earlier than visitors to a website, say, in Europe.

The number of requested resources and user difficulties are other causes of latency. For instance, it will take longer for the server to respond if a user requests a web page with numerous photos, CSS and JS files, or material from several different third-party websites. Or the user's gadget may have inadequate memory, a shoddy internet connection, or some other problem that is causing the delay to grow.

Let’s Understand How Latency Works

Latency is the amount of time it takes for a user’s request to be processed. Now, to understand how latency works, let’s take a scenario where a user is browsing an eCommerce website and clicks on a category. Here, we’re going to list all the steps that go behind the scenes after the user clicks on the category-

  1. The first step is performed when a user clicks on a particular category.
  2. Then a request is forwarded to the server of the eCommerce website from the user’s browser.
  3. The request travels, taking all the necessary information, from the user’s browser to the server of the eCommerce website. Now, let’s understand that the time this information could take to reach the eCommerce website server depends on the quantity of the information. Thus, if the information being sent is high in quantity, it’s going to take longer to transmit.
  4. Then the server finally receives the request.
  5. Now, it depends on the nature of the request which determines whether the server would either accept the request or reject it before processing. Both of the scenarios are time-consuming. Again, the time that the server takes for processing the request depends greatly on the number of requests being processed and also on the server’s processing capacity.
  6. Once processed, the eCommerce website’s server sends the necessary information back to the user’s browser.
  7. As soon as the user’s browser receives the reply from the site’s server, they process the necessary action and show the category on the browser screen.

Latency can be divided into two parts. The first part consists of steps 1 to 4, and similarly, the second part includes steps 5 to 7. Latency as a whole is a combination of both parts which means both parties are responsible for the occurrence of latency.

Now that we’ve covered what latency is and how it works, let’s move on to the most essential part i.e., what tricks and tactics one can apply to reduce the latency of their web page.

Optimization Tricks to Reduce Page Latency

1.  Give CDN a chance.

Due to the fact that latency is influenced by the separation between a browser and server, latency can be decreased by moving the two closers. Although you can’t physically move your server to be closer to every user, you can employ a content delivery network (CDN) for it.

A CDN is a network of distributed servers created to provide web material to users as rapidly as possible, wherever they may be in the world. You may distribute material globally without having to rely on a single server thanks to a CDN. Instead, the CDN will use various network servers that are proximate to each individual visitor to provide the requested assets.

The closest server to the user copies such web assets after delivering and showing the requested content. When a different user in the same region of the world wants to access that material, the CDN can route the request from the origin server to the server nearest to them, which can provide the cached content considerably faster because it has a shorter distance to travel. Famous companies that provide CDN services are Amazon CloudFront, Akamai, MaxCDN, Cloudflare, and KeyCDN.

2.  Reduce the size of JavaScript and CSS files.

The majority of online pages will combine HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The issue is that CSS and JavaScript files must be transmitted from the server to the browser each time a visitor opens a page. Thus, there will be more HTTP queries, which will significantly raise latency. You can shrink the size of the CSS and JavaScript files, but you cannot delete them from your web pages. The speed at which files go from the server to the browser depends on their size.

The good news is that this procedure may be automated using a minifier, such as Google's Closure Compiler Service. You only need to enter your code in the compiler, select "Compile," and then download the minified file.

3.  Compress your media files.

Every time a person opens your website in their browser, all of the content—including media files—is downloaded to the user's computer. The most bandwidth is used by graphics and video on your website, according to a category-by-category analysis of data utilization.

Therefore, shortening the length of the media files (such as photos) helps speed up the loading of the page. Really high-resolution photographs don't need to be served on the web. Remember that the majority of visitors will either view your website on a desktop or a mobile device. And in both situations, using an image with, say, a 2000x2000px resolution is just a waste of space.

The video, image, and other media assets can easily be compressed to make them smaller and more suitable for web use. For the same, search for free online tools on websites like ResizeImage.net and toolur.com.

4.  Create a browser cache.

As discussed previously, a browser must download all necessary web files each time it loads a webpage in order to correctly display the page. This includes pictures, JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. Depending on the content size, the combined size of all these files can range from a few kilobytes to several megabytes. The issue now is when a user's internet connection is slow, and a website sends out an excessive number of HTTP requests. Browser caching can be aided by storing files locally on the user's browser to combat this.

Now, loading will take the time it requires when a user accesses a website for the first time. However, the website will load more quickly when the same user returns. Why? Because a few files have already been saved in the browser. Now that it only needs to download the remaining (updated) files, fewer HTTP requests are required, which speeds up page loading.

Install and activate plugins (WP Rocket, WP Total Cache, Cache Enabler) if you use WordPress. HTTP headers must be changed to set expiry durations for specific file types in order to enable browser caching on non-CMS websites.

5.  Reduce the number of resources that obstruct renders.

Before presenting any resources to the front-end user during page loading, browsers download and parse all of the resources, including pictures, CSS, and more. The browser halts downloading and parsing other elements of the page until important resources like fonts and JavaScript files have been handled.

These items, often known as "render-blocking resources," will considerably slow down your website. Although fewer render-blocking components on your website won't actually lower latency, users will perceive a faster load time.

6.  Select Proper Hosting Service.

When it comes to hosting, the majority of publishers choose the least expensive choice and then choose to move to a better host as and when their website gets bigger.

The following are some choices to consider while upgrading your hosting service:

  • In this choice, your website is hosted on a server that is also used by other websites. One of the most affordable hosting options, suitable for a new site with little traffic. Security issues and significant page latency are drawbacks.
  • One physical server that is exclusively used to host your website is a dedicated server. Because of this, the publisher need not be concerned about resource sharing or page latency. However, it can be expensive and necessitates a technical administrator.
  • Self-service web hosting entails complete independence. Purchase, set up, and configure servers. Next, attend to the needs for software, cooling, electricity, and other things. Companies with their own data centers and hosting servers include Google and Apple.

Conclusion

If you want more incentive to finally take latency seriously then focus on the announcement that Google made in 2010 which stated that a website must have good page speed for it to rank higher on Google’s search page. Although they didn’t specify a number but stated that it should be somewhere below 30 seconds. So, if your website doesn’t have good page speed then there’s no point in applying all other SEO tactics.

We hope it’s clear why you must make extra efforts to reduce the latency of your web page. The performance and user experience of your website can be significantly impacted by minimizing latency. Lower latency makes sure that consumers get the materials they requested as promptly as possible, giving them greater motivation to keep coming back to your site.

Alekh Verma

CEO and Founder at eSearch Logix Technologies!

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