If I asked you ‘What’s the time to first byte?’ and your first thought is to check the canteen opening times, then you probably need to read the following.
Have you ever clicked on a link to a website in Google search results and wondered how long it will take before the web page data you've requested starts to arrive on your computer screen?
Probably not! However, for those that have or need to know, this is called the ‘Time to First Byte’ or TTFB.
The TTFB ideally should be a very small amount of time. For the sites that Bison Grid build and host we aim to achieve a TTFB of about 0.1 seconds. For the average website visitor, having a TTFB of 0.1 seconds rather than 0.5 seconds will probably make little difference to their browsing experience. However, Google currently has over 30 trillion web pages indexed and needs to constantly keep crawling those pages to ensure the quality of its search results. Consequently Google is very keen to have pages delivered as quickly as possible, which is why they reward websites with clean code and high TTFB with better ranking. Matt Peters, data scientist at Moz, asked Zoompf to help find information to substantiate this, so please read the MOZ blog for more details.
The chain of events between your website request and the web page data arriving in your web browser involves of a lot of different software and hardware. To help you understand how to improve the TTFB for your website it's best to look at web page processing and distance to the web server.
DISTANCE TO WEB SERVER
Reduce the distance between you and your visitor by using geographically dispersed web servers. If you have important website visitors in America make sure they can access your web page from a server near them….not the other side of the world! Bison Grid uses Geo DNS servers and data centres in Europe, America and Asia to help optimise web page delivery for geographically dispersed visitors. In addition, we also have custom built caching and routing servers so we can configure web traffic redirection and page delivery performance specifically to our client’s needs.
WEB PAGE PROCESSING TIME
The majority of TTFB gains are normally in this area. Reduce web page processing delays by delivering static content via front end caching servers and make sure that the web page code does its tasks efficiently. A good web developer can write a small amount of code that does a lot of things with very little required processing power. Also, don’t share server resources with other websites - make sure you have dedicated processing power and memory, you don’t won’t to be caught short when you have lots of visitors. We've previously built a website with the NLM Team for their Redbull Technology recruitment project and when Mark Webber did some tweets about the site, it caused traffic volumes to escalate very quickly! Thankfully the dedicated web server and front end caching proxy we setup for the site easily managed large traffic volumes and resources could be scaled as needed. Had it not been set up with a little extra love and attention all those extra visits would come to a dead end, meaning brand awareness for the project could
WHAT’S YOUR WEBSITE TTFB?
If you want to check your TTFB now go to http://www.bytecheck.com/ and put your website address in. To get a more accurate reading we recommend that you run this test a few times and take an average of the results. We also like using http://www.gtmetrix.com because it gives more details and is a bit more techie. If your website TTFB is over 0.5 seconds you really need to look at the above performance factors or give Bison Grid a call. In the past we have reduced websites with high TTFB and page load times of over 10 seconds to less than 1 second which has resulted in a significant increase in search engine ranking and very happy customers. As a rule we try to reduce time between request and delivery for everything we do at Bison Grid!
Image Credits: Globe, Glastonbury Crowd, Wall of Clocks