Monday, August 30, 2010

How Fast Does Your Website Or Blog Load?


I've been viewing articles and statistics lately concerning the speed at which my website(s) or blog(s) load and how important that may or may not be. I had seen a reference to a website that allows you to test the loading speed of your website or blog and thought I'd test all of mine.

The website I used was Numion.com and I selected their STOPWATCH tab. When you click on the STOPWATCH tab it brings up a window that allows you to enter your website or blog URL.

I decided to test my websites and blogs on two different days (each time clearing my cache first) to see if there would be a difference. The results are displayed in seconds. Here's my results:

Linda Walsh Originals - 5.428 then 5.384 seconds
Gray Is Beautiful Products Gallery - 4.759 then 4.157 seconds
Linda's Doll Bookstore - 1.511 then 1.363 seconds
Everything E-Directory - 8.754 then 5.851 seconds
Everything E For Crafts E-Directory Blog - 12.65 then 8.989 seconds
Linda's Blog - 12.69 then 11.196 seconds
Victorian Dolls, Victorian Traditions, The Victorian Era and Me Blog - 11.868 then 12.186 seconds
Gray Is Beautiful Blog - 10.945 then 11.430 seconds
The Dollie Storage Room Blog - 8.466 then 5.477 seconds
The Best FREE Craft Articles - 8.275 then 5.701 seconds
The Book Review Corner - 12.125 then 11.432 seconds
Top Blogs By Crafters Toplist - 6.211 then 4.339 seconds
About Linda Walsh Originals - 2.129 then 2.179
Tips For Crafters On The Web - 10.382 then 9.903 seconds

So, the question was whether or not my results were good.  Depending on which point of view you believe the answer is yes and no.  For some points of view if your website or blog doesn't load in 4 seconds or less you're in trouble.  Other points of view might have it at 7 seconds or under.  Their opinion is based on the fact that most of the Fortune 500 companies load on the average of 7 seconds or more. Others say 5 - 10 seconds is good while others say never more than 15 seconds.

So, you might think based on the above that most of my results were okay while others should be reviewed. Well, you'd be right and wrong. You see, there are so many factors that influence loading times that to know which is right or which is wrong is mind boggling.

For example all of the following influence website or blog loading times:

1. A users particular Internet connection speed (i.e. using dial-up, DSL, Fios, etc.)and load of their particular network.
2. The type of browser being used to access the Internet.
3. A users computer age, size, configuration, and settings.
4. The number of programs the user has open, number of tabs the user has open, the number of windows the user has open, whether or not their computer needs to be defragmented, etc.
5. Whether or not the website or blog being accessed is in the users browser cache (i.e. pages already in the browsers cache load faster).
6. Amount of traffic to the site being accessed and the server's access speed.
7. Anti-virus, anti-spam, etc. programs the user has protecting and running on their computer.
8. Design and size of the website or blog.
9. Amount of coding, widgets, images, etc. on the website or blog.

My results above were based on the fact that I have a medium range upload/download Fios connection, have a computer that is close to 7 years old, had multiple tabs open, had cleared my browsers cache, and had anti-virus and anti-spam software running.  

As a website designer and blogger of the 9 things above I only have control over #7 and #8. The first 7, which play a big part in page loading speed for my customers and my blog readers, are totally out of my control.

If you only have control over 2 of the 9 items on the above list do you need to pay attention to how fast your website or blog is loading?  Basically, yes.

Do you need to go crazy and remove everything you've added to make your website or blog enticing to your customers or readers? The answer is no.

Sometimes the reason why your customers and readers keep returning to your website or blog is they find it of use. So, first and foremost you need to look at the purpose of your website or blog and based on this determination decide whether you need to modify your website or blog at all. 

If you decide to modify your website or blog there are some things you can do to help your website or blog load faster. First and foremost you should know that four things can greatly reduce loading time: large images, music, video's, and widgets.

So, reduce the size of your images or graphics if you can and try to make sure your images and graphics and include their height and weight tags in the coding.  The latter, from what I understand, helps speed up the browser.   I do reduce the image and graphic size for all my websites and blogs, but have to admit that not all of the coding includes their height and width tags.

Reduce the size of the embedded video you may have or eliminate the embedded video in favor of a link to the video page.  I try to keep the video's in my blog posts to no wider than 350.  On the sidebars of my blogs I try to keep this at no more than 250 in width.

Resist the urge to include music on your website or blog.  I don't have music on any of my websites or blogs as I've found that when I've accessed websites or blogs the music tends to freeze my computer.

What else can you do? Well, take a look at the widgets you're using. For the social networking websites widgets that just display a communities badge load a lot faster than those that include member's pictures and streams. A widget including a stream is going to load much slower than any other type.

However, just because you have a widget or some other coding that loads slowly that doesn't mean it's always bad and should be removed.  For example, I know that the Linked Within coding I have on my "The Best Free Crafts Articles" blog slows down the load time.  However, I believe for that particular blog that the coding not only enhances my blog but makes it easier for my readers to find posts that may be of interest to them.

I, for one, just LOVE widgets and I'll be the first to admit I probably have too many of them on my blogs.  If you love widgets (like I do)  then try to include them toward the lower half of the sidebar or end of the website or blog so users scrolling down aren't  immediately affected.  I need to review all my blogs for this. If the widget is beneficial to my blog then it will stay. 

For blogs you can make sure that your posts aren't too long. I, for one, have to admit I'm really guilty here. I tend to have blog run-on.

Blog posts with multiple numbers of images and links are going to load a lot slower than just a few so limit the number of images and links to those you really need.  As mentioned above I reduce the size of my images before I post them.

Before I ever took a look at all this I knew that certain things could bog down my website and blog load time. But, for the most part, some of those were out of my control and some may have only been a temporary problem.

For example, your Twitter or Facebook module or link might be hung-up. Your Google ad sense module can sometimes be problematical and slow loading. Image and links for Amazon Associates, Etsy, etc. modules can be slow loading at times. If you have Blogger.com blogs then you know that Picassa tends to load slowly. And, subscription links or overseas websites links can sometimes hang you up. I've even seen embedded statistical coding like Google Analytics hang up a website or blogs loading. You just never know.

So, the upshot of all this is you should pay attention to your website or blog load time - but, don't go crazy. There are just too many factors to this statistic that are out of your control. If you have a good design and there is logic to what you are including then don't lose any sleep over this statistic.


Posted by Linda Walsh Originals- "Doll Patterns for Grown-up Girls!"

Clipart Courtesy of Pierce Free Clipart Collection

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I've Been Playing Again! This Time With A Collage Photo Tool Website


Things have been so crazy this summer my emails have been piling up and I haven't gotten around to blogging about so many of the things I want to blog about.  The stack of emails is so large I get heartburn just looking at it! LOL LOL

However, every once in a while I get an email suggesting that I take a look at this or that.  I generally don't accept most of them as my blogging opinion isn't for sale, but every once in awhile I get one that piques my curiosity and lets me play a little.

Well, one of those emails that I got back in June suggested that I review an online collage service.  Here's the gist of the email:

Hello Linda,

At www.photovisi.com we have developed a free online service that lets you create collages from your photos easily. I'm trying to spread the word about our service, and think readers of Tips for Crafters on the Web would be interested in what it can do.

We've put extra effort into giving users a quality selection of collage designs and options for customization. It's very easy to use too: select one of the many collage templates, add your photos and then customize by dragging items around. After the collage is finished it's available for download.

I'd be really happy if you decide to write a short post about Photovisi.

Thanks,
Maurice
http://www.photovisi.com

According to their website: Photovisi is a free and easy to use online tool to create photo collages. Select one of the many collage templates, add your photos and then customize by dragging items around. After the collage is finished, it's available for download and print! Want to try it out?

So, I thought why not?

There were three different collage sections with 12 collage templates each to choose from.   So, I picked one.  Then I added my photos.  I could add photo's from my computer, photo's from my webcam, add my own background or change my particular templates background to another from their selection, or add more shapes from this templates selection to my collage.  So, I chose 4 doll pictures from my computer and added them as the collage that I had chosen to fit 4 pictures.

All of the doll pictures I take are cropped and bordered.  I quickly learned that square pictures are the best size for the Photovisi.com collages so I had to crop them.  You just select the picture by double clicking it and then hit the crop button.  A cropping tool comes up that you can then apply to your picture.  You can also add a background photo if you want to or change the background color.

It seems the crop tool works best on the larger pictures so upload the largest size picture and then crop it to a square picture. When I tried uploading smaller size pictures from my computer that were already cropped and square the crop tool didn't work. It froze and then I had to start over.

You can also enlarge the size of your photo, move it around, or rotate it any way you want. The same is true for any of the shapes you add. You can move them around, re-size them, and rotate them until you get the collage you want.

After you've added your images and have the collage you want then you save the collage.  In save you are given several resolution options for your download and can decide if you want to publish it to the Photovisi.com gallery, add a title, and add keywords. 

I selected the largest resolution as I always like to re-size my images down to several different sizes that I can use on my websites and blogs. I did not check the add to the gallery as I didn't want to add my collages to the public gallery. I added a title, but didn't add the keywords. I figured that the keywords were only good for the search engines and if you weren't part of the public gallery then you wouldn't need the keywords anyways.

After I saved my collage I was prompted to "click here to download your collage!"  So, of course, I did and saved it. One thing I did note was that the collages you create are only saved on Photovisi.com for 2 days so if you want to save your collage you have to download it and save it to your computer.

I was then prompted to share my collage via email so I sent it to myself.  Then I was asked if I wanted to "Click here to get your collage printed on mugs, posters and more!" or "Click here to download your collage" and I chose the latter to download. I was also prompted if I liked Photovisi.com to share it on any of the social networking websites. The email feature and share button are great for sharing your collage with family and friends.

Basically, I found the whole process quick and easy to do and I had no problems along the way. The only issue I ran into was when I signed up the activation email was sent to my spam account, which is par for the course these days for computer generated emails.

I had selected a 1920x1440 resolution so the collage I downloaded was large. If I wanted to use it on my websites or blogs I would need to re-size it, which would be no problem.

My collage was saved in My Gallery on Photovisi.com so I could view it there (at least for two days from the date of creation) and create some more. I could also view all the collages in the Photovisi.com public gallery to see what everyone else was creating.

I figured that in My Gallery that not only would all my collages be shown, but there would be a button to create another. That wasn't the case. I soon learned that to create another collage I would need to go back to the home page and click the "click here to start" button to start the process over.

The first collage I created is shown in the picture at the top of this post. It was extremely quick and easy to do, including the cropping.

So, I decided to try another. This time I added some of my pattern pictures, a background image I liked, and different shapes. I was able to easily add the shapes and then re-size them for the size I wanted and to easily move them around the collage. Plus, I was able to easily rotate them to get them to be exactly where and how I wanted them. It was all quick and easy to do.

Here's the results:


Since I was just playing around with my collage I wasn't concerned as to whether or not this would be the best way to display my patterns. Obviously, in a collage it would be better to have larger pictures so as to enhance your product display. However, for these purposes this suited me just fine.

So, I decided to play again. This time with some of my Halloween designs. At first the images that I uploaded were not large enough to be cropped and when I tried to do so the crop tool froze. However, when I uploaded larger images the crop tool worked fine. Here's the results:


I also checked my email to see how the collage that I emailed to myself came out. It was great. Large and clear enough to be easily viewed in my email.

All in all I think this would be a great way for anyone to create collages and share their photo's. It would be a lot of fun for Mom's, Dad's, and the kids to create and share their photo's together. And, then email or share them with family and friends.

As far as for small business use, if you're looking for a quick way to add a splash of color to your product images, add different backgrounds or shapes to your product images, create some cute advertising buttons, or create a quick newsletter or blog post collage picture this is a quick and easy website to utilize for those purposes. Collage would also be a great way to easily add multiple product images to your website or blog within one picture.

All in all I liked the website. It would be nice, however, if they were to move the Google ads from the middle of the page - like to the top or bottom. I understand why they're doing it, but it's a little annoying seeing it there in the middle of every screen.

Thanks, for the suggestion, Maurice. I had fun playing around. Now I'd better get back to work - or maybe not. Maybe another collage would be fun.......