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Site speed essentials

Sannse October 28, 2010 User blog:Sannse Google
Speedy
Speedy!
A key part of being a successful website is to maintain a system that's fast and reliable. It's well known that the quicker the site speed, the more likely it is that a visitor will stay and explore. For example, Google's algorithm takes site speed into consideration when they decide which search results get displayed higher on the page.

On Wikia we've seen this in action -- the longer it takes a page to load, the higher the exit rate. To prevent this, we've taken a number of measures to keep our page load times low across 170,000 wikis. Some of the recent changes we've made:

  • We've combined CSS calls to our servers, so they are loaded all at once rather than as separate files.
  • Buttons on the interface are now loaded as a combined image, helping them to load faster. We then use CSS to split the image for display.
  • Spotlights are now also loaded together rather than individually -- more saved calls to the server!
  • Some images now only load after you've started to scroll down the page (including spotlights and the photos module). For anyone that doesn't scroll down that far, we don't need to waste time loading those images.
  • We are working to reduce our use of the Yahoo JavaScript framework, and now only load it on pages that are directly using it.

Maintaining and improving site speed is an important task for our engineering and operations department. And plays an important role in our product development process, with new features optimized to balance functionality and loading speed. For the future: we are turning our attention to improving the geographic reach of our servers. We are planning to place new servers in the New York/Boston area, which will mean faster speed for all of our visitors on the East Coast of the US. We already have servers in San Jose, Iowa, Frankfurt and London. (Here's a bit of magic: )

As a wiki admin, there are some things you may want to consider to keep your wiki fast:

  • How big is the background image used in your theme? If it's a large image, this can greatly increase the loading time of your wiki.
  • What is the size of other images you use? Is it possible to compress them before adding them to Wikia?
  • What extensions and JavaScript do you have on your main page? Too many of these, or some particular ones, will slow down your site.

Have other ideas or suggestions? Please feel free to post them below for everyone's benefit. We hope that you have a fast (and fun) experience on Wikia!

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