Monday, September 17, 2007

Blink Don't Bloat

"There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis." ~ Malcolm Gladwell, American Author
How long do the pages take to load on your web site?

Seconds? Minutes? Hours?

Seriously, we’ve all encountered pages that take a long time to load, but did you know it's not just annoying but bad for your business?

And in more ways that one.

I'm talking about poorly coded pages on your web site. Pages with bloated or redundant HTML code. It's actually very common when using a WYSIWYG editor, or a program such as FrontPage or Dreamweaver, but very troublesome for your marketing.

WYSIWYG editors, which mean “What You See Is What You Get”, have a tendency to add a ridiculous amount of un-needed code. But keep in mind these programs were not meant to build fully functional web sites. They should only be used as a starting point. In other words, use them to start your page, but you then MUST go into the code and take out the unnecessary and redundant code.

Of course the best-case scenario is to code your site by hand. It's by far supeiror. For example, if you test a page coded by hand versus a page created by a WYSIWYG... the hand coded page will load quicker every time. It's fast, clean and concise, vs. being slow, dirty and bloated.

Why is this bloat bad?

Obviously, slow page loads ruins user experience. Site visitors want to accomplish their task and move on as quickly as they can. They want information now… without waiting. (Do you hear this video marketers? Online video may be turning off your readers if it takes too long to load.)

I always go back to the blink test… web surfers will make an evaluation of a page in seconds. Five seconds after they click - tops - and if the page doesn’t load, they're gone.

If the site is really good… worth the wait… let’s say 50% stick around and wait for the page to load. But that’s a 50% loss of readers. Yikes, that’s bad business.

Oh… and one of those readers that left instead of waiting for your page to load… he may have been a potential back link. Ahh!

This is something you can't ignore.

In addition to caring about how users perceive your site, bloated HTML can also affect your search engine indexing, ranking and linking.

Uh oh…

Did you ever do a Google search, go into the "Cache" and see a blank page… do you know why?

It's dirty html, excess JavaScript, or CSS embedded on the page. In other words, the code is not “clean” it’s bloated and/or dirty to the extent that the Google bot came to the page, read the source and but stopped and left before it ever got to the text.


That’s not going to help your ranking, eh?

I’ve seen it happen… a page with 3,000 lines of code with all types of JavaScript over it. CSS is embedded on the page, and the page’s actual unique text is way down in the file past line 2,000. Ouch…

It may look beautiful to the eye, but not to the Google Bot.

You can't afford to let this happen. So what do you do?

For better crawling clean up the code and move the unique text toward the top of the page. Streamline the HTML, and move the JavaScript and CSS definitions to external files.

So do yourself a favor… no. Do your readers and the engines a favor... clean up your code and lower the size of your page. You’ll create a better user experience, and improve your search engine rankings.

Don't let first impression of your sight to be negative. Let your content sing in the blink of an eye.