Joomla website optimization has captured my attention lately more than ever. As you learn to adjust this setting and alter that file, Joomla tuning can become quite fun if you have any essence of web nerd hiding inside you. If you like building on the web, chances are you like tinkering. GTmetrix.com can take your Joomla tinkering to a new level. The site uses both Google Page Speed and Yahoo! YSlow to provide information about page load times and other issues, and it also provides recommendations for improvement. They state that, "Studies show that users leave a site if it hasn't loaded in 4 seconds." Armed with this information and a desire to tinker, you can create a free account and get optimizing right away. There are definitely some things to watch out for though.
Don't Get Obsessed
Tinkering, improving, playing, optimizing; all of these things are great. However, when you spend way too much time trying to alter an .htaccess file to gain 1% improvement to achieve an "A" rating in YSlow, it can be a detriment. First and foremost, figure out why you're looking for improvement. Are you simply looking for a faster loading page, better performance on a mobile device or higher conversion rates? Whatever your goal is, make it something concrete. Otherwise, you will be optimizing for optimization's sake, which can turn into an endless loop of grade chasing. Remember that a high grade is not an end in itself.
Test Over Time
The internet is a very changing organism. Testing at noon on a Wednesday may bring a very different result than testing at midnight on a Sunday. Make sure to take advantage of the history feature in GTmetrix and take several tests over at least a week or two. You'll get a great deal of information this way, and GTmetrix presents some very nice, simple graphs to show your data visually. There is also a setting to change the server and location that you test on.
Follow Recommendations Reasonably
GTmetrix will present you with a horrifyingly vast amount of fix recommendations, depending on the optimization level of your site. It's important to find out what these all mean before you panic and take your site offline and switch to Drupal or Wordpress. The recommendations are exactly that...they are not requirements. If you use common sense when following the list of items returned by your test, it should direct your efforts, not completely define them. If you get to a point where your site is loading great across browsers and devices and you don't have any glaring security issues, don't sweat the rest.
Do Your Research
This is possibly one of the most important things to do before, and during, your work. Some of the recommendations GTmetrix will provide are self explanatory. For instance, Leverage browser caching is something we probably all understand, but you should really know WHERE you should be caching your site info. Should you use the built in Template function or JCH Optimize? Also, a large percentage of the problem in a badly loading Joomla website is often caused by haphazardly installed Extensions and Plug-ins. Know what's installed in your site and what they do.
To find out more about what many of the GTmetrix recommendations actually mean, use Google. You can also stay tuned for our next post where we will go much further in depth with what these terms are and some basic suggestions on how to fix them.
Do you already use GTmetrix? Do you use something else for testing and optimization? Let us know in the comments below.