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HTTP/2 Will Improve Your Site

February 2nd, 2017 - by Brett Derricott - Salt Lake City, Utah

When was the last time you said, “Technology is always staying the same”? You’ve never said that. No one has. We’re all continually amazed at how fast technology changes. The changing is the thing we find so remarkable.

Well, in some lesser-known cases technology has changed much more slowly than you’d expect. One of those is the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which is the primary protocol driving the communication between your web browser and every web server (site) you visit. The last update to HTTP was version 1.1 in 1999. Crazy, right? Fortunately HTTP/2 is here to bust that slump.

Plenty of articles have already been written that explain the gory technical details of HTTP/2 so for this article I’m only going to summarize the key points for you as a site owner.

Why Switch to HTTP/2?

  • Speed: Websites and browsers that support HTTP/2 can share more information in less time.
  • SEO: Google considers your website’s loading time as a factor in your rankings. Faster sites get higher rankings.
  • Development: If you’ve spent time/money optimizing your website, you know that there are extra steps required to make your site speedy in the HTTP1.1 world (sprites, combining files, domain sharding, etc). In HTTP/2 most of those become unnecessary, and in some cases, they actually become detrimental.

How Do I Switch to HTTP/2?

Most likely, you should hire a developer to do this for you, but in case you’re feeling especially brave I’ll still outline the major steps here. This will also give you an idea of what a developer will need to do for you.

  • Require SSL: If you aren’t already requiring SSL on your website, you should do that ASAP. Google is starting to use that as a ranking factor, and it’s more secure for your visitors. HTTP/2 requires an SSL connection. You can easily tell if your site is up to snuff here by attempting to load your website using http:// at the beginning of your web address. If your website loads and the http:// hasn’t been replaced with https:// you have a problem.
  • Check Audience Compatibility: As much as 75% of your site traffic is already using an HTTP/2 -compatible browser. If your traffic is all US-based it’s probably a much higher percentage. Depending on your business and your audience you may need to consider optimizing for both old and new browsers for a period of time.
  • Undo Your HTTP.1.1 Optimizations: In most cases you’ll want to undo many of the optimizations your website is using in the HTTP1.1 world. HTTP/2 uses one connection, can multiplex, and has a few other performance enhancements that make things like image sprites domain sharding, and combining CSS/JS files not only unnecessary but undesirable. Basically, we’re going back to the way we used to handle website assets before we started worrying so much about HTTP requests.

If you get nothing else from this article, here are your two takeaways: First, require SSL on your website. Second, put HTTP/2 on your to-do list for improving your website. If you need help don’t hesitate to contact us.