Better Site Speed
Every time the browser has to collect resources from a server, it has to send a message across the internet and back; the speed of this is limited by the speed of light. This may sound like a ridiculous thing to concern ourselves with, but it means that even small requests add time to the page load. If you didn’t catch the link above, my post explaining HTTP2.
There are some things we can do to help either reduce the distance of these requests or to reduce the number of round trips needed. These are a little bit more technical, but can achieve some real wins.
TLS (or SSL) is the encryption technology used to secure HTTPS connections. Historically it has taken two round trips between the browser and the server to setup that encryption — if the user is 50ms away from the server, then this means 200ms per connection. Keep in mind that Google historically recommends aiming for 200ms to deliver the HTML (this seems slightly relaxed in more recent updates); you’re losing a lot of that time here.
The recently defined TLS 1.3 standard reduces this from two round trips to just one, which can shave some precious time off the users initial connection to your website.
Speak to your tech team about migrating to TLS 1.3; browsers that don’t support it will fallback to TLS 1.2 without issue. All of this is behind the scenes and is not a migration of any sort. There is no reason not to do this.
QUIC / HTTP 3
Over the last 2-3 years we have seen a number of sites move from HTTP 1.1 to HTTP 2, which is a behind-the-scenes upgrade which can make a real improvement to speed (see my link above if you want to read more).
Right off the back of that, there is an emerging pair of standards known as QUIC + HTTP/3, which further optimize the connection between the browser and the server, further reducing the round trips required.
Support for these is only just beginning to become viable, but if you are a CloudFlare customer you can enable that today and over the coming 6 months as Chrome and Firefox roll support out, your users will get a speed boost.
When users connect to your website, they have to open network connections from wherever they are to your servers (or your CDN). If you imagine the internet as a series of roads, then you could imagine they need to ‘drive’ to your server across these roads. However, that means congestion and traffic jams.
As it turns out, some of the large cloud companies have their own private roads which have fewer potholes, less traffic, and improved speed limits. If only your website visitors could get access to these roads, they could ‘drive’ to you faster!
Well, guess what? They can!
For CloudFlare, they provide this access via their Argo product, whereas if you are on AWS at all then you can use their Global Accelerator. This allows requests to your website to make use of their private networks and get a potential speed boost. Both are very cheap if you are already customers.
Takeaway: A lot of these sorts of benefits are considerably easier to get if you’re using a CDN. If you’re not already using a CDN, then you probably should be. CloudFlare is a great choice, as is CloudFront if you are using AWS. Fastly is the most configurable of them if you’re more of a pro.
Takeaway: TLS 1.3 is now very widely supported and offers a significant speed improvement for new connections.
Takeaway: QUIC / HTTP3 are only just starting to get support, but over the coming months this will roll out more widely. QUIC includes the benefits of TLS 1.3 as well as more. A typical HTTP2 connection nowadays needs 3 round trips to open; QUIC needs just one!
Takeaway: If you’re on CloudFlare or AWS, then there is potential to get speed ups just from flipping a switch to turn on smart routing features.