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Web designers, programmers, and administrators usually overlook the importance of physical geography when they try to measure and optimize their website performance. Two components drastically influence the perceived responsiveness of a website from the visitor's perspective:

  • Serialization delay. The time it takes to transmit the content over all the links between the server and the visitor (with the visitor's low-speed Internet access link having the most impact).
  • Propagation delay. The time it takes the electrical signals to travel from the web server to the visitor's location.

The overall serialization delay (also called download time or estimated time to download in web design tools) is influenced primarily by the speed of the user's Internet connection, and is directly proportional to the overall size of all components of a web page. The total propagation delay is dependent on the visitor's geographical location and is proportional to the number of components in the web page.

To reduce serialization delay, reduce the size of your web page or its components. To reduce propagation delay, reduce the number of components in the web page, and make sure that your web server supports persistent connections. You'll find more optimization details and the tools you can use to measure the performance of your web pages in my next article.

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