Effects of Page Load Speeds

I have recently been working on a new server architecture for a client. For certain reasons I will simply refer to them as client throughout this post.

So, let’s give you a bit of a background. The site is a monster Wordpress site. We are talking about a 500mb+ database, thousands of posts & over a million page views per month. Which was hosted on an ancient (but beefy) apache server with 12gb of RAM and a quad core cpu. But lacked any sort of efficient caching system.

If you haven’t read my post on Nginx and Redis to speed up wordpress you can check it out here

So, I began speccing out an Architecture Diagram, focusing on the Single Responsibility Principle. I would use a Load Balancer (HaProxy), 2 Web Servers (Nginx & Redis) and a Database Server (MySQL). By using Digital Ocean I could efficiently allow these to communicate with each other over their Private IP Addresses.

I will go into this setup in more detail another time, but you could probably piece together the different parts by hitting up various Digital Ocean blog posts.

The site on the Beefy Apache server would load the DOM (on homepage) between 3 and 8 seconds on average. Which is not only slow, but is massively inconsistent. This is totally down to having to process many SQL queries per page load. Very inefficient.

Through the new server, I managed to get this down to consistent sub second DOM loads. Which makes the site feel so much more responsive. Through using Redis and PHP Microcaching with Nginx this allows the site to load consistently quicker as less processing is needed from the server. And by splitting the servers up, it makes sure that they are not fighting each other for resources.

But, enough of the tech. You want to know the effects. Let’s take a look at the Analytics:

    Sessions: Roughly the same
    Bounce Rate: 5% Average compared to 90% the week before switching

The new bounce rate is almost unbelievable, but it shows you how much your users think about load speeds and reliability. Now, I must admit, this case is most likely on end of the scale because of the amount of new content which is added to the site each day. Meaning users should be more than often be visiting more than one page, but even so, if you can improve your Page Load you should!