Spring is here! Historically, this time of the year is representative of growth and renewal. It’s the perfect time for cleaning up your house, your yard, and your website.

Keeping a modern website running smoothly can be time consuming and resource intensive. Modernizing your website may never become effortless, but this process can definitely become more manageable, maybe even enjoyable. This list provides an overview of quick and easy to apply tricks – including information on image optimization, general code cleanup , and using Gzip – to zip through clean up and arrive at a happy site.

Before you start,choose a tool to performance test your website

To be effective in performance tuning, it’s essential to establish a baseline and measure the effect of the changes you make. Otherwise, how will you know if the changes were worthwhile? And, in the future, how will you know what to do again?

We like WebPageTest!
There are a ton of free tools out there. Our personal favorite? WebPageTest! This free, open-source tool makes it easy to analyze the most important metrics, a waterfall view of all requests and resources, and even capture video of rendering. Check out our previous post on performance analysis using WebPageTest.

Wherever you decide to proceed from, focus on one task at a time.

1. Update Your Platform

Every once in a while, I get these annoying pop ups in the center of my screen, while I’m in the middle of watching YouTube videos and scrolling endlessly through Facebook. Ahem, I mean, studying. I usually ignore them. However, updating your web app to the latest version usually yields better performance and speed, and bug fixes. For example, if you use a content management system, make sure you update it regularly.

2. Get Rid of Bad Links

There’s some debate on whether broken links on a site can harm SEO health. Either way, nobody likes clicking on something that doesn’t work. It gives the impression that the site owner, and even the company, is unprepared. There are several free tools available to help you find these broken links and fix them, including Screaming Frog and Google Webmaster Tools.

On the same token, minimize redirects. Redirects may not be as obvious to users (or even web developers for that matter),but they cause extra delay that can be avoided. Screaming Frog can help to diagnose these occurrences as well.

3. Minimize HTTP Requests

By now we’ve all heard the popular mantra: The fastest request is one not made. A simple way to minimize requests is to combine code and consolidate multiple files into one. This can also be done by implementing CSS Sprites for multiple images. More information on implementing this strategy can be found here.

4. Remove Unused Code, Plug-ins, and Settings

Sometimes it’s easier to just comment out the code we don’t need, but after a while, this stuff can just become unnecessary clutter. This is applicable to code, images in a database, old plug-ins, themes, and even the settings/tables left over from an older theme or plug-in that has since been replaced. If you’re not currently using a theme or plugin, get rid of it. You can always download it again later. Chances are you’ve moved on to something sexier anyways.

5. Clean up Images

There are countless image optimization techniques that can be utilized to boost performance, some of which are more complicated than others. Some simple image tuning techniques to start with include cropping and resizing. It’s also important to serve the image at it’s real size, rather than adjusting them on the fly. For example, if your image size is 1000 x 1000, you don’t want to use a markup to display the image at 100 x 100 because this will mean you’re just sending extra bytes. Instead, resize the image in an editor to 100 x 100, and use that smaller file. Additional image tuning techniques include reducing color depth, as well as removing any unnecessary image comments.

6. Clean Out Your Database

This is probably the trickiest thing on the list. Have you removed old revision posts lately? What about unused images?

7. Use GZIP

The average website has grown 151% in the past three years, with an increase in the amount of requests and the size of requests. GZip is a tool that can be used to combat and reduce the weight of the requests. The easiest way to implement it is to stick the script into the PHP of your site’s header. An in-depth explanation of using GZip can be found here.

Now that you’re done..

Ahh.. Don’t you feel better? Now you can measure your results and compare them to your baseline. Even though some of these suggestions aren’t meant to drastically improve the speed of your site, an making incremental improvements and keeping an organized production will reap huge gains in the long run. The best thing you can gain is experience. Post the results of your optimization below! How did these tips work out for your website? Do you have any useful tips for performance tuning your site?

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