WEC: Installation & HTTP Compression

Installation of the Web Empowered Church platform was smooth and easy. I was a php software developer prior to entering ministry, so  there were no difficulties with the installation. The symlinked install approach even made the upgrade to the 4.1 version of Typo3 very  easy. The docs from WEC make the process simple enough that anybody with basic linux web server administration experience could set it up. The only thing that might make it easier would be to offer it on a vm image with a basic linux installation.

The biggest gripe that I had with WEC after initial configuration was the size of the css it generates. My css customizations and the default set generated by all of the plugins result in a total CSS overhead of nearly 90k. Our front page is graphpically intensive, and includes 125k of graphics/flash.  My goal for the redesign was to keep the entire footprint of the home page under 150k. This wasn't a problem based on my template materials and the planned content. The problem happened when I realized that nearly 90k of css was required, bringing the total size of the page to about 245k. That doesn't seem to bad if you're sitting on a broadband connection, but about 10% of our population is on dialup (according to Google analytics). A 56k connection would take nearly a minute to download the page.

HTTP compression to the rescue. Last Thursday I decided to enable the mod_deflate Apache module and configure our WEC site to utilize it for all content except for images, flash, mp3, etc. We're basically making sure that everything leaving our web server is compressed – either within the file itself or via the mod_deflate compression. We're running a SuSE linux system as our main web server and the setup was painless. Enable the module that was already installed with Apache 2 and configure it for the virtualhost/directories with our WEC site. 

According to the new compression logs I put in place the overal size of the page has dropped to 135k with minimal impact on server performance. I haven't done any stress testing yet, but I don't suspect there will be a problem on the system we're using. Simply by turning on compression I can shave over 100k off our main page load.  Most every modern browser supports http compression and if a browser won't support it they'll get uncompressed content.

I do wonder about the size of the generated CSS, but with the http compression enabled it will be awhile before I bother to optimize it.