5 tips to optimize the speed of your website in China

16 April 2018

China’s digital landscape is unique and can be a troublesome one to navigate. While loading speed is just one aspect among others (such as design, mobile or browser compatibilities, etc.), it is still one of the most important part to ensure your users a great experience. Here are our 5 tips that could help improve the speed of your website in China.

1. Avoid blocked services

A non-exhaustive list of services that could slow down or prevent your website from being opened in China:
API: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr.
Videos: Youtube, Vimeo and Daily Motion.

WordPress powers 30% of all the websites on Internet, according to W3Tech. Yet most of WordPress themes are embedded with blocked-services. This explains why most websites from oversea are slow or just don’t open when trying to access it from China.

There is always a Chinese equivalent. Google Maps can be replaced by Baidu Maps, Youtube Video by Tencent Video or Youku and some Facebook API by WeChat ones. Libraries and frameworks such as Bootstrap or jQuery can be considered using local services such as bootcdn.com.

The development of a custom theme is usually a requirement to control the China-Friendliness of your website.

2. Resize your images

While not unique to China, heavy images are still one of the main reason why a page loading can be slow. You can use Photoshop’s feature ‘Save for webs’ or any online tools to optimize all your images on your website.

Here are some tips about image formats:

  • Use .jpeg when the picture has no transparency (such as landscape pictures);
  • Use .png when the picture has transparency (such as a logo).

As a rule of thumb, photos should be 30 to 150ko depending on how important the image will be on the screen.

3. Choose a DNS hosting in China

Think DNS as a ‘yellow page’ to find where all websites live.

To better understand how this all works, here are the main steps when accessing a webpage:

1. You type an URL

You type an URL (http://www.creative-union.com) in the address bar of your preferred browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.).

2. The browser looks at your DNS

The browser looks at your DNS (remember, the ‘yellow page’) to find the exact address of the server where your website lives (such as Mainland China or around, see tips 5).

3. The browser asks the server

Now that your browser knows where your website lives, The browser asks the server to make a copy of your website.

4. The server says…

’Yes of course you can see it, here it is’. The website is now visible on your browser.

DNS servers have locations usually defined by your domain registrar (the service where you bought your domain name). For instance, Godaddy has DNS servers located in US. When your browser looks at your DNS (step 2), having your DNS servers in China can save your users some precious time.

We recommend using DNSPod as your DNS hosting service in China to help speed up your page loading.

5. Improve your workflow

A poorly coded website is another possible reason for slow webpage speed. While improving your language skills is probably the best solution, there are also some tools that can help you improve your website’s code and workflow.

Here are our favorite ones:

  • Sass (Syntactically Awesome Stylesheets): A CSS pre-processor that allow you to organize your CSS in multiple files and let you create variables, mixins and functions to build a modular, stable and clean CSS
  • GULP: A toolkit for automating a lot of painful tasks such as bundling and minifying libraries, refreshing your browser when you save a file or compiling your Sass to CSS.

6. Host your website in mainland China (or around)

A server in Mainland China will fully optimize the loading speed of your users trying to reach you from within China. However, you will be required to own a business license in order to make an ICP license.  An ICP license is a registration number issued by the PSB (Public Security Bureau) and is a pre-requisite to host any websites in China. The process to register takes around 3 weeks. For companies who don’t own a business entity in China, a hosting provider around (Hong Kong, Singapore or Japan) can be an alternative.

Be careful: when hosting your website outside of China, avoid using shared-hosting services. You could share your IP Address with a website that does not comply with Chinese regulations and there is a possibility that your website just does not show up anymore.