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on November 22, 2005
I can't argue with the strengths of the book which is detailed in the number of excellent reviews here, as they are all true. I bought the book based on those reviews, and while they are true, I still feel cheated.

In today's world, where "standards based" coding is becoming more prevalent and adherance to the W3C standards for HTML coding is being recommended, this book just grated on me. While there is a great deal of great information, there are also a large number of "gotchas" to watch out for as well.

The book proposes to use HTML tags without their corresponding closing tags, not to use required elements whenever possible, avoid using quotes in HTML tags, and many other ways of creating "non-valid" code. This will "optimize" your code a bit more by reducing the characters in it, but it will also create problems for you in the future.

In summary, while the book does give alot of good information, it often steers you away from standard code. If you are unsure what is considered "standard" and required for creating valid XHTML/CSS, you are best served skipping this book as it will teach you to create invalid code. If you know enough about XHTML/CSS to ignore those parts, it's a great book.
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on December 12, 2005
Description

The book has six parts.

The first part says that because web users are willing to wait for at most eight seconds and many use a 56.6Kbps modem, web pages should be at most 30KB in size.

The second part lists tricks how to write shorter html.

The third part lists tricks how to write shorter css and javascript.

The fourth part discusses graphics and multimedia optimization.

The fifth part explains methodically how to make your web come up high in search engines.

The sixth part details some server-side tricks for Apache.

Comment

This book concentrates almost exclusively on sending fewer bytes from the server to the browser. It gives a large collection of tricks how to write shorter html, xhtml, css, and javascript. Some of these tricks are useful. Others however go against standards, and some seriously go against maintainability. I'd be reluctant to give this book to my team. One may be tempted into shaving off bytes, spending a big effort and yet producing unmaintainable code. Unless one has a strong sense of relevance, one can be caught up in technical dispersion.

If you want to send fewer bytes, standard gzip-compression is far better than eliminating line-breaks and indentation.

The book does not go into server-side programming. It is oriented towards optimization of static pages.

With this orientation, King makes some bad recommendations. For example, he recommends writing javascript without comments, rather then recommending server-side comments that are not sent to the browser.

The book predates AJAX-like techniques.

Who should read it?

The book is useful for the person that writes the html that will be sent to the browser, if that person has a good sense of relevance.
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on March 10, 2003
Andy King, the guru behind WebReference.com and JavaScript.com, sent me a review copy of his new book "Speed Up Your Site: Web Site Optimization" a few weeks ago, and it absolutely knocked my socks off.
If you aren't familiar with Web site optimization (WSO), it's a series of techniques that minimize Web page file sizes and maximize page display speeds. In other words, WSO is simple stuff you can do to the Web pages you create to make those pages load faster. After all, people HATE waiting for slow Web pages.
What King has done in "Speed Up Your Site" is not only assemble pretty much every WSO technique known to man, he's also collected the research and conducted the interviews explaining WHY these techniques actually work.
While the entire book is exceptional, the four chapters in "Part II - Optimizing Markup: HTML and XHTML" are absolutely worth their weight in gold. It is in these four chapters that King shows you, step-by-step, how to clean up HTML bloat; minimize HTTP requests; tighten up comma-delimited attributes; speed up table rendering; and much, much more. And the results will ASTOUND you.
For example, using the techniques in just these four chapters alone, I was able to make my NetSquirrel.com homepage 26.5% smaller and load 42.9% faster. Words can't describe how cool that is.
The four chapters in Part II of King's book are accessible to ANYONE who knows simple HTML. That's not quite true for the next five chapters. In "Part III - DHTML Optimization: CSS and JavaScript," King shows you how to optimize your CSS and speed up your JS download and execution speeds. Of course, if [like me] you don't know CSS or JS from a hole in the ground, these five chapters aren't going to be much help to you. CSS and JS aren't topics for the weak of heart, and optimization only makes those topics that much more complex. But, if you *DO* know CSS and JS, King offers step-by-step instructions and real-world examples that show you what you need to do to maximize your page display speeds.
Let me also put in a plug for Chapter 15 - Keyword Optimization. This chapter shows you how to fine tune your page's meta keywords so that you can attract both search engines and, more importantly, visitors. Every Web design book tells you that you need to use meta keywords. King actually shows you how to find the meta keywords that yield the highest results. Instead of paying someone else lots of money to attract visitors to your site, follow the 10 steps that King outlines in this chapter. You'll save yourself both time and, more importantly, LOTS of money.
As I said earlier, Andy King's "Speed Up Your Site" absolutely knocked my socks off. There are a squillion Web design books out there, but this one belongs on the bookshelf of every serious Web designer.
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on April 11, 2003
This book deserves 4 1/2 or 4 3/4 stars. A small star is clipped only because of the first two chapters focused on psychology of performance, theory, and background. Some people love the stuff like marketing professionals, but I'm not one of them. The rest of the book is solid gold... actually, platinum.
When we speak of usability, we typically speak of navigation, architecture, legibility, linking, screen size, and browsers. Also key is optimizing your site for fast downloads and this is more than just optimizing gif and jpg images. More people on broadband? Maybe, but not necessarily. Even broadband users have their limits in how long they will wait for a page to load. It's a business problem since it impacts revenue.
Been designing for less than a year? More than four years? Not even a designer, but involved somehow? The book is for all levels and anyone who has a hand in a Web site including decision makers. Experienced designers may have many of the optimization techniques down, but the book brings up others you may not have thought about. I've had my own Web site since 1993 and learned a few new tricks.
Andrew King has written about Web design for a long time and walks the walk as well as talks the talk. He has used his own Web site, Webreference.com, as a case study many times to show how to improve the site design. One reason he and Webreference.com have been well-respected is because everything is in reader friendly English.
Another book? No time to read it? The book is organized to make the most of your time. Use it while you're working on the Web project and refer to it often. You'll understand what King writes the first time and not have a need to re-read it until it makes sense.
If the words HTTP, client, server, and compression sound too techie, King's writing style has a calming effect so readers can understand and apply the concepts. Sites of every size and kind will benefit from this complete reference to create Web sites faster than a speeding bullet. We're all suffering from information overload, including broadband users, get to the book quick.
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on January 27, 2003
King's book focuses on an overlooked but critical aspect of website usability: response time. I think it's often overlooked by developers because they tend to have fast machines and fast connections, but even if individual response time is not a concern, the techniques discussed in the book could save money by requiring fewer servers and lower bandwidth requirements.
There are two chapters on the psychology of performance, which might provide motivation or ammunition to convince
people who need convincing. Many of the chapters focus on methods to reduce the size of textual languages like
HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Better and easier gains are obtained by configuring the server for compression, but many sites do not have that sort of control. The benefits of all these methods are covered well. Optimizing graphics is covered thoroughly, explaining the properties of different formats. Although it is mentioned in a summary, the practice of specifying
the height and width of images is not explained. It seems so obvious to many developers, but it's a disaster when not followed because the page can not be rendered until the sizes of all the images have been determined. Techniques for writing efficient code are applied to JavaScript, and there is good coverage of what takes a long time to execute on some browsers.
The book has a web site: [...] It shows figures, chapter summaries, links to resources, etc.
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on January 27, 2003
Whenever Web workers attempt to figure out the best ways to ease the user experience by speeding the display and navigation of the screen, we enter a shadowy world of uncertainties, old coders' debates and personal lore.
The author has gathered more knowledge on the subject than I have ever seen in one place anywhere. Real examples and authorities are cited to take the suggestions beyond the realm of personal opinion. This is a most satisfactory and valuable book.
I might not be able to do all the author suggests since the need for speed must be balanced with other costs such as maintainability by development team members, etc. but now I have a much better idea on what those costs are and how to deal with the options available.
Sometimes the book introduced terms without defining them but often my confusion was cleared with the concrete code which followed. The book assumes a high comfort level with JavaScript at least and although I had to squint real hard sometimes, I didn't sprain anything serious.
Page download and processing speed is a fascinating aspect of our work -- with lots of surprises.
Recently I was approached by a team with a particular problem involving manipulating heavy data tables. A solution was proposed based on loads of JavaScripting on cells. We sped this up by maximizing the use of CSS. We sped this up again by scripting on columns instead of cells. Interestingly, a no-script nifty CSS-only solution resulted in the slowest response for the largest tables. Our final solution was one that combined JavaScript with XSL transformations. You learn something new every day.
This book has lots of those new things for you.
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on April 10, 2004
When the GUIguy reviews books, it is usually with the intent of reading fairly quickly to get a sense of the author's approach, their writing style, and the value of the content.
When I picked up Speed Up Your Site: Web Site Optimization, an amazing thing happened: I was captivated by the content and the style. Amazing! A first! I found myself reading every word and every line of code, lest I miss some gem hidden within the letters.
Andy King's basic premise is clearly stated: "At current bandwidth-to-CPU speed ratios, bandwidth is the limiting factor." Therefore, optimization of code is vital for a well-received web site.
Sure, that's easy to write, but how do you do it?! The author meticulously goes through many, if not all of the ways code can be streamlined, addressing HTML, XHTML, DHTML, CSS, and even more.
As for style, you can almost hear the author talking; the conversational tone pervades the tome. The book is a delight to read, and the text is peppered with subtle and not-so-subtle humor like "Link to external style sheets site-wide to cache in." Even code snippets are occasionally injected with nostalgia and rib-ticklers. (There is a reference to Burma Shave signs-search the web if you don't know what that is- and even the Emperor with No Close. (sic))
And for those who wonder why all this optimization is important, the author opens with two chapters on the Psychology of Performance, with well-researched excerpts and citations from human factors writings. The forward is even written by usability guru Jakob Nielsen.
There is a companion site ([...]) that contains all the code along with all the references, chapter summaries, chapter excerpts, color figures, etc. After all, web sites are living documents, and having all this information on a web site allows it to be updated easily.
The only flaw that I found with the book is that there is no accompanying CD. I would love to be able to search the complete text for suggestions and tips that I probably won't remember when I need them-like when I redo my own web sites, a job that I must undertake now that I have read this book.
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on February 4, 2003
When I read this book, I was hoping it would explain the purpose behind the necessity for fast web sites. Right out of the gate, the author provides sufficient research on this topic. Not only does he discuss the speed of response time as a certain factor in user satisfaction, he takes it to the next level by discussing the major causes of user impatience. I really enjoyed the part about "attunability". It's a very valuable term for web designers. As for me, this discussion alone was worth the price of the book.
The book follows this discussion with the idea that it's not enough to speed up a web site. To improve user experience and keep them on a web site longer, flow becomes an important factor. As for me, I am always trying to build sites that flow well. It's very annoying to visit a web site that has inconsistent color schemes, a plethora of navigation techniques. Hey, use all the cool techniques that you want but if it doesn't flow then I'm not impressed. Give me something that is simple and pleasing to use and I would probably hang around longer. This book stresses flow but doesn't spend much time on the subject.
With the groundwork laid out as to why sites need to be optimized for speed and flow, the rest of the book explains with great pain-staking detail how to optimize. It offers techniques and examples for areas such as HTML, XHMTL, CSS, JavaScript, graphics, multi-media, and meta-tags. Furthermore, this book covers server-side techniques and search engine optimization. Finally, to measure web site optimization, this book includes references to benchmarking tools.
With the concentration on coding techniques and optimization of code, I can understand why this book is recommended for experienced developers and designers; however, this book is organized such that a beginner could read the first three or four chapters and then do follow-up reading as their skills progress. With that said, I think this book could have presented more details on site flow; but overall, this book is worthwhile reading. With almost 500 pages, it's jammed full of research and useful examples and techniques on web optimization. I have built many web sites and fine tuned them. This book is a gold mine. With its awesome amount of coding optimization techniques and examples, I am sure that I can double the speed of my web sites.
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on February 17, 2003
In over 8 years of web development, and having sat through countless usability tests and user feedback sessions, I can say without any doubt that a slow site spells disaster if you want people to actually use it and you want to acquire and keep happy customers. Even with higher levels of penetration of faster internet connections, a fast site is a hugely important factor in the quality of the overall online customer experience.
For this reason, Andy King's book `Speed up your site' is an important addition to any web developer, or web manager's, library. As Andy rightly points out the subject of site speed has been written about in articles a lot but it is a topic that is deserving of an entire book. In his book, Andy has drawn upon his great wealth of experience to pull together a mix of theory and practice, supported by case studies, to help you deliver a faster site.
More marketing and business-focused web professionals will get most out of the sections on `The Psychology of Performance' and `Search Engine Optimization' whereas more development, design and technically-focused practitioners will benefit from the detailed analysis, including example code, contained in the sections `Optimizing Markup: HTML and XHTML', `DHTML Optimization: CSS and JavaScript', `Graphics and Multimedia Optimization' and `Advanced Optimization Techniques'. Each section finishes with a Case Study which is a great way to see the issues in a practical context.
Ashley Friedlein
CEO: e-consultancy.com
Author: "Web Project Management: Delivering Successful Commercial Web Sites"
Author: "Maintaining and Evolving Successful Commercial Web Sites: Managing Change, Content, Customer Relationships and Site Measurement"
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on February 5, 2003
Although we all know it is important to have fast loading pages few Web developers have a real idea about how users really respond and how long they will wait. Andy King has obviously gone to great trouble to empirically determine what people will put up with and does a great job of explaining how and why to speed thigns up. Some of his ideas are very simple to use and extremely effective. I don't consider myself to be a hard-core techie (just a suit who wished he were) and I found the book to be a good read. His tips on using gzip are the best. It really works and is easy to do and understand.
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