Perhaps an unusual subject for comparison but I actually thought it was important to bring it up. WordPress blog with all the bells and whistles to make a true interactive Web 2.0 portal can consume quite a bit of bandwidth and load time will greatly depend on the connection speed of the visitors. So the question is:

What Is Most Important To You As Blog Author: Interactivity or Accessibility Of Your Blog?

I provide a quick poll on this question below the article and I would appreciate your vote. But I also want to share some information that brought up this topic and possible solutions and trade-offs.

Tracking results when implementing any changes to my sites is one of the perhaps most destructive activities and biggest time killer for me. Stats analysis and tweaking sometimes takes more time then I would like to but it is addictive and generally leads to a better results. But enough rumbling and let’s move into actual details.

Doing an analysis of visits to this blog over a period of last 2 month I have discovered following:

  • Only 4.01% of my visitors use Dial-up access
  • 82.89% of those visitors are New as opposed to 78% that is average for high speed
  • 1.45 is an average pages viewed by people on Dial-up VS 1.97 for high speed
  • 72.78% average bounce rate for dialup users VS 69.95% for high speed

So what do those stats actually mean to me? Actually answer here is rather simple. What I’m seeing from these stats is that I get very small amount of visits from people connected via dialup and when they do come – they read less number of pages and click away from the page (back button on the browser) more often then users on high speed connection. Dialup users also less likely to come back to my site, as shown by percentage of new visitors on dialup VS users connected via high speed.

Web 2.0 portals are about interactivity and I can guarantee that striking perfect balance will be rather hard and for many it will be a decision on whether to even bother with it based on such a low numbers. Obviously these numbers can be quite different for other niches and prior to jumping to any conclusions you need to perform your own analysis.

But there are a few things you can do to improve your blog load times without impacting interactivity too much:

  • Widgets – these are your biggest killers and by that I mean ANY widget that pulls data from external sources. You have to really evaluate what is important to you and to your visitors. For example if you look on my sidebar you will find only 2 widgets that rely on external data source and I seen them as must have: FeedBurner Readers and subscription forms and MyBlogLog latest visitors.
  • WP-Cache plugin  can help your pages load faster. I do have to mention that after trying it on my blog I have found some side effects that negated any benefits of actually installing it. So I decided to go with an alternative that provided same performance on page load without any issues:
  1. Enable page compression for supported browsers, which I think now days would be all of them. To do that in Admin panel go to Options –> Reading and place check mark for the following option “WordPress should compress articles (gzip) if browsers ask for them”. Save your changes.
  2. Use caching mechanism similar to WP-Cache but using WordPress functions. In order to get this one done you have to edit your wp-config.php file and add this line: define(‘ENABLE_CACHE’, ‘true’);
  • Limit number of posts on your front page. This one is specifically applies to blogs that are multimedia intensive and present images, audio and video embedded in posts. Can be set through Admin panel in Options –> Reading by setting number of Show at most: to less then 10. You will have to play around with this number to find best value for your blog in my case I found 7 to be the most efficient. Combine that with Latest Posts widget on your side bar and Page Navi plugin and you don’t loose any visitors.
  • Don’t present full posts on your multi-posts pages like Index and Archive. This one actually plays double role: helps you encourage visitors to view more pages on your blog and avoid duplicate content penalties from search engines. There is a simple way to accomplish it through theme files by simply setting what is displayed from “post content” to “excerpt” but I personally prefer to use “more” tag as allows me to control how much of the content actually shown in teaser. If you go this route I highly recommend using a “Full Text Feed”  plugin to avoid annoying your subscribers by providing them castrated feed. There is much discussion on this one but I simply state my personal preference.
  • Move to a different host:). This one is the most drastic but if you have a heavy trafficked blog it might be what the doctor ordered and something I’m contemplating right now.

Implementing these simple changes I found to have most beneficial impact to my blog. And no, I don’t mean I started getting more visitors on Dialup connection. What I have seen via historical trend of my blog visits for Dialup users since the blog started is an improvement of Page View stats: it went from initial 1.32 to current 1.45. Might not be a huge improvement but if my changes helped my visitors to view my pages I feel I have accomplished something good.

And now for the poll I have promised.