My Quest For Better Mobile Speed; Things I Can’t Figure Out
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Sep 21, 2016
I know I said 4 weeks ago that I was done working on increasing the mobile speed of my websites. Actually, what I said was I was done for a long while… I’m thinking 3 weeks is a long enough “while” so I’m coming back to the fold to talk about it once more.
The thing is, there are some issues that I just can’t solve, and all my research isn’t answering any of it. I’ll own up to seeing a lot of solutions here and there, but I have to add that none of them either make any sense or don’t work.
One other thing that’s happened, at least for one of my regular websites, is having pages that are slower than other pages when the content is literally the same, and the page speed error messages are the same as well. Why does one page pass the test when the other doesn’t?
All this and more follow, but I want to mention the two reasons I’m putting this one together. The first is to show other people who might be fighting these issues that they’re not alone. The second is hoping that someone with some “real” knowledge will pop in and explain what some of these things are and how we might actually be able to fix them.
That’s fine, except… that’s the reason we’re using CSS in the first place, so that if there’s a change we want to make to affect all pages at once we only have to put it in one stupid file! All the research I did said to first try to minify the file (which means clean is up; there are lots of pages that offer links that will do it for you) but even after doing that it didn’t change my speed any. The second recommendation was to leave it alone and just thumb your nose at Google. Since I can’t find a better fix to this issue that’s exactly what I’m doing… but it’s unsatisfactory.
2. Leverage browser caching
This one recommends setting what’s called expiry dates to certain types of files, where the intention is to tell the browser of your visitor whether it needs to actually download those files to the browser again if you’ve already visited the site within a certain period of time. The site I linked to actually gives you the code to add to your .htaccess file, which I mentioned in the last page speed post, only… it doesn’t work!
I’ve tried changing some of the numbers. I’ve tried converting some of the numbers to the number of seconds those numbers represent (which was another recommendation). For whatever reason it’s just ignoring that code, and in all the research I’ve done I have yet to find even one person who might have an idea of why it doesn’t work… and lots of other people who have said it doesn’t work for them either.
3. Reduce server response time
In essence, this one is blaming the host you’re using for your websites. The recommendation is to track it to see what’s going on and then… fix it. FIX IT?!?!? How do we do that? I actually called my hosting company and eventually hung up because they had no idea what I was talking about.
I could blame the hosting company but my research has shown that no one else has any real idea how to do it either except to change hosting companies. Let’s be real here; why the heck would most of us want to keep jumping around to hosting companies just to see if this possibly works?
4. Prioritize visible content
This is the strangest one. What it tells you is that you have issues with your HTML that it supposedly can’t render completely the first time around that’s above the fold. This one is problematic for two reasons.
The first is that, at least for me, the two things it’s telling me it’s having a problem with is my main image and some Google Adsense code. On the first, I’ve reduced the image and don’t have any actual HTML around the image, so I’m not sure what to do about that, especially since the entire code is actually way above the fold since it’s at the top of the page.
The second is that, even based on all the research I’ve done, they really don’t tell you what above the fold means in this particular context. For instance, on the page speed screen it shows you what you believe is the above the fold area. Yet, all the research says that’s not quite the above the fold Google’s talking about, and the only way to figure it out is to go step by step, testing each little change.
Not only do I NOT know who has the time to do all of that, but on one of my sites I totally eliminated the HTML for the content, going totally with CSS content. Unless CSS is now also HTML, Google’s gone bonkers! lol
One last thing. For my medical billing site, I actually removed both the image and the two places where I have the Google Adsense code just to see how much my speed would improve… and it didn’t improve! What the hey? I also took a different page, saved it as something else on my computer, and copied just the content of the page that’s dragging into it; eureka, it worked! That is, until I changed the Title of the page to what it should be and the title on the page for what it was supposed to represent… all broke once more; sigh…
5. Size tap targets appropriately
This is another one that’s kind of goofy. What this supposedly means is that things you want people to click on, whether it’s a menu item or links to other pages within your content, are too close for mobile users to get to easily enough.
On my medical billing site, the content it’s telling me is too close to each other is, once again, within the Google Adsense code. I mean… really?!?!? What the heck am I supposed to do with that? By Google’s own terms of service you’re not allowed to mess with their code, and one would assume that if they’re going to report on themselves that they’d fix themselves while they were at it. Then again, why expect common sense from Google when Warner Brothers has reported their own site for stealing their content? Sheesh! lol
Those are the top 5 things I haven’t been able to figure out. I’ve actually figured out almost everything else, which is how I achieved the speeds I did. One last thing though; I want to reiterate that, though those error messages above keep popping up, they don’t seem to affect all my pages the same… even though the structure of all the pages is the same. I think I need a computer Sherlock Holmes to figure it out… or maybe someone out there much smarter than me who’ll see this post and stop by to help. We can only hope… 😉