Faster Drupal in a few easy steps

This is pretty basic speed up your site article. It assumes little effort has been made, but it is something I wish I had found when I was starting out. There are much deeper and more effective methods of speeding up your Drupal website including Varnish, Memcache, APC, Sprites (this is also an easy win by the way as it reduces the number of calls - that's almost more important than reduced image sizes), Image optimization, CDNs, and a host of other methods and tools. So before the performance geniuses jump down my throat, this is all about a quick way to speed up your Drupal site assuming you haven’t done much and almost certainly not for you unless you plan to add to it and help newer guys out with advice.

I am pretty focused on SEO as a developer and a slow site is a big no-no if you hope for the search engines to take you seriously. I never have much time to dedicate to my site, so as the old adage goes “the cobblers son has no shoes”, my site is always a little neglected.

I had to speed it up recently in an attempt to impress Google, when I discovered how incredibly slow it was. “The greatest SEO in Durban” marketing attempt wouldn’t really fly if my site were in position 3000 for “SEO Durban”. Happily I am climbing fast now but a big contributing factor to poor SEO performance was that I had written the site in a few days and had not even done the basic Drupal performance enhancements, so it was a bit of a donkey.

I thought I would do some very basic steps and test it with pingdom tools for the sake of a share with anyone who found it useful.

So here are the steps I took and the results (averages over 5 tests on each url at each stage from one location, so not massively intense research, though hopefully interesting) :

url Start Turning CSS and JS aggregation on Turning drupal caching on Installing Boost Putting JS at the bottom of the page
http://www.axisinteractive.co.za 6.25s 5.37s 4.87s 3.95s 3.05s
http://www.axisinteractive.co.za/web-development 5.14s 4.96s 4.17s 2.94s 2.29s
http://www.axisinteractive.co.za/what-is-seo 5.10s 3.94s 3.37s 2.88s 2.33s
Average 5.50s 4.76s 4.13s 3.25s 2.55s

Impressive gains in my opinion, came from moving javascript to the bottom of the page (not Google analytics, that needs to stay in the header).

Most of these results can be replicated by visiting your site’s performance page at www.example.com/admin/config/development/performance. Moving javascript to the bottom of your page is as easy as moving "print $scripts;" down to just above the close body tag in your html.tpl.php file. And the brilliant Boost module and its installation instructions can be found at https://drupal.org/project/boost.

Good luck and happy speeding!

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