From the Web's early days, companies have struggled to make their sites faster, but the problem remains a thorny one, with new challenges emerging regularly as technology advances.
Current issues include the rising number of third-party content feeds, ads and social gadgets, which can significantly drag down a Web page's performance, speed and load time.
Webmasters are also grappling with an increasing number and variety of browsers, including those for mobile devices, which force designers to adapt their sites in multiple ways so that they will render properly for all users.
And as websites age, with many having gone through waves of major overhauls over the course of 10 years or more, Web developers and designers often encounter layers of legacy coding that often require extensive revising and complicated revamping.
Turning a blind eye to this issue isn't an option for companies, whether their websites are corporate sites, e-commerce stores, online media publications or internal portals.
Sites must be optimized for speed and performance, because clunky, slow pages hurt business. They repel users, dilute the effectiveness of advertising, weaken sales conversions, damage brands and increase bandwidth, hosting and IT maintenance costs.
As if that were not enough, search engine king Google last year began factoring calculations about the speed and performance of websites into its website rankings.
Jeremiah Wilson has been dealing with this issue head-on for years at his current job as senior user experience manager of Cars.com and for previous employers. "Website speed is a consumer benefit," he said.
In a previous job at a real estate website, he saw first-hand how improving its speed and performance had a dramatic effect on usage and revenue.
And he has seen how a poorly optimized website can suck financial and human resources, elevating internal expenses at companies. "The slower a site is, the more it costs to maintain and fix, and becomes a big cost to the organization," Wilson said.
With organizations' websites playing a bigger role in sales, marketing, customer support, employee collaboration and other operations, the stakes are higher.
"Website performance as a whole is becoming more and more important to the success of businesses," said Michael Weider, CEO of Blaze, a startup founded last year that recently launched a cloud-based Web optimization service.
Traditionally, improving website performance focused on beefing up back-end elements, such as acquiring newer, more powerful servers and increasing bandwidth.
Today, however, most bottlenecks happen at the front end, caused by "third-party content bloat," as described by Dave Karow, a senior product manager of Internet Test & Measurement at Keynote Systems, a provider of on-demand test and measurement products for mobile communications and Internet performance.
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