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Supercharge your Website with Amazon CloudFront

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Article from ADMIN 21/2014
Users who lose interest in websites that don't respond in the expected time take their clicks elsewhere. We look at ways to improve your WordPress website performance.

The vast majority of web surfers are spoiled with DSL high-speed broadband and fiber connectivity, yet sometimes users still experience slow page loads. Statistics show that consumers are quite responsive to slow page load times, and those who create and maintain websites generally acknowledge that website performance matters.

In this article, I will explore how you can improve your WordPress website and make it deliver optimally with the use of Amazon CloudFront [1] and a potent plugin, W3 Total Cache [2]. How your site performs can help or hinder your success online, whether you have a simple WordPress website, blog, or elegant e-commerce effort.

According to an Akamai study on web performance [3]:

  • 47% of people expect a website to load in two seconds or less.
  • 40% will abandon a web page if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
  • 79% of online shoppers who experienced a lackluster experience indicated they were less likely to buy from the site again.

Why Load Time Matters

At this point, it should be abundantly clear that users respond negatively to an underperforming website; therefore, it is imperative that you work to improve site performance. Slow load times can have other negative effects on your web efforts, such as:

  • Bad User Experience – You want visitors to your site to have a positive perception and response to your efforts, but a slow site damages that potential. When your site lags behind established norms, it can affect the user experience, your brand, and your very online success.
  • E-commerce Abandonment – As shown in the statistics above, e-commerce is very sensitive to load times. Every second counts, with costs in lost visitors and, more importantly, sales. Bottom line, you can improve your online efforts or lose out to competitors.
  • Low Conversions – Faster load times mean more conversions. Conversions can be any action you want the user to complete, such as a sale, joining a mailing list, or getting a follow on Twitter. Your success can be negatively affected by a slow site that makes these valuable opportunities disappear.
  • High Bounce Rate – A slow-loading site leads to a high bounce rate, meaning more users "bounce" or leave your website rather than continue on it. Obviously, this is a lost opportunity for a conversion, sale, or whatever outcome you seek.

Bottlenecks Abound

Website administrators today can build their sites in so many different ways, including building everything on standard hardware, taking advantage of virtualization, or using a hosted solution (shared, VPS, etc.) Other supernumerary private/public cloud environments include market players such as Amazon, Google, Rackspace, Red Hat, and so on.

No matter how you build, you certainly don't lack choice, but sometimes you can improve on performance and scalability. Without planning, WordPress can present some thorny performance issues.

The problems of website performance are literally everywhere in infrastructure, protocols, web server/database configurations, networking gear, network latency, and on and on. I could spend 1,000 pages discussing the problems that influence page load time and never address the bigger picture. In this article, I will focus on a simple way to improve WordPress performance via caching and a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

Caching/CDN-Powered WordPress

In the case of WordPress, a key performance factor is that pages, posts, comments – almost everything – is dynamically generated with each user visit. For example, if you visit a WordPress site, PHP code pulls data stored in a MySQL database and generates a page that you then view in your browser. This process sounds slow, and it certainly can be. Thankfully, with a CDN and caching, you can dramatically improve this situation. With caching, you take some of the overhead of dynamically generated pages and reduce this potential bottleneck.

Additionally, you can move some commonly accessed content into a CDN, dramatically improving load times. The CDN moves the content closer to the user on more well-connected, low-latency servers, which is a win all around. Before I continue, I'll explore the basics of a CDN.

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