My Mac Online goes under the knife:
Website Optimization tools reviewed
Recently, I was approached by two companies selling two very different optimization tools guaranteed to speed up web page loading times. As a web designer and content creator, anything that can speed up my web pages is important to me. Did you know that the average website contains up to 50% dead weight‹extra information that can slow web page loading to a crawl?
I was a webmaster when WYSIWYG editors weren’t around, and I have always considered myself as a clean-code writer. What really blows me away, though, is that even the blank space in my HTML documents that I leave for easy readability will become the “extra information” that will slow my web pages down.
Consequently, I was more than happy to review the two products: Mizer 1.7 and VSE Web Site Turbo 3.0.1. In this review I will put the two products head-to-head in tests using the #54 build of My Mac Online. I’ll let you know which product worked the best, and which one will suit your needs. Now, let the fun begin…
Company: Antimony Software
Estimated Price: $69.95
Mizer 1.7 from Antimony Software was the first product I tested. Mizer will optimize all elements of HTML, and it will also optimize all your GIF and JPEG files, dramatically reducing the time it takes to load graphics. The main advantage of Mizer is that it does not require you to fine-tune a multitude of settings; you can get started optimizing from the get-go. Mizer allows you to drag and drop both files, graphics, and whole sites for optimization.
Mizer does have some shortcomings, though, mainly that it doesn’t create a post-optimization report with actual numbers that you can see, meaning that you won’t get actual percentage savings. Mizer also does not have a HTML 4.0 compliance option, and it could more easily damage intense HTML 4.0 documents than could VSE Web Site Turbo.
Despite the shortcomings, Mizer really shines when you put it to work in actual real-world tests. For my HTML tests I used the My Mac Online main page (/index.shtml), a 27k HTML document, and the Book Bytes archive page (/archives/reviews/book_bytes.shtml), a 38k HTML document. For my graphics tests, I used the main page logo (/graphics/logo.jpg), a 40k JPEG file, and the “about” graphic in our navigation bar (/graphics/navigation/about1.gif), a 12k GIF file. Finally, I optimized the entire My Mac Online site, which weighs in at just over 83MB.
Mizer performed very well in HTML optimization, cutting my two test documents down from 27k and 38k to 24k and 34.5k, respectively. Mizer also performed well in graphics optimization, cutting my 40k JPEG file to 12k, and my 12k GIF file to a measly 2k. And Mizer cut the entire size of My Mac Online from 83MB to 44MB. Pretty darn good, if you ask me. So how does the competition stack up?
VSE Web Site Turbo 3.0.1
Company: VSE Software
VSE Web Site Turbo 3.0.1 from VSE Software is another impressive program that includes all of the functionality of Mizer, with a completely different interface and feature set. VSE Web Site Turbo includes drag and drop as Mizer does, but it includes a multitude of preferences to set which type of optimization it does, which type of tags it removes, and what version of HTML it should tailor itself to. Unfortunately, setting these preferences isn’t as easy as it sounds. VSE Web Site Turbo often forces you to make countless difficult, often intimidating decisions before you can optimize your web pages. However, these preferences can be put to good use if you’re an advanced user, and webmasters who are particular about the types of data that is placed into their pages will appreciate the extra effort by VSE Software to include this fine-tuning functionality.
Quite possibly my favorite feature of VSE Web Site Turbo is its ability to create post-optimization reports that show exactly what was done, and what percentage of data was saved. Mizer does not have this extremely important feature, and the only real way to distinguish how much data you are saving is to look in Mizer’s progress window, but if you’re optimizing only a few files that’s not easy, especially on a fast machine.
However, the big question is: How does VSE Web Site Turbo stack up against Mizer in optimization? Surprisingly, there was no significant difference between the two in terms of how many bytes they saved. However, one significant problem with VSE Web Site Turbo is that it ties up the whole computer when it’s optimizing, which stops you from getting other essential work done, such as email. But you won’t be tied up long; VSE Web Site Turbo quickly optimizes HTML documents and graphics for fast loading.
Mizer is clearly an outstanding optimization tool that can be a one-stop drag and drop solution to your sites’ woes. Despite its shortcomings, it performs on par with the more fully featured VSE Web Site Turbo. VSE Web Site Turbo also performed well, yielding approximately the same results as Mizer. However, after viewing my documents after optimization, VSE Web Site Turbo yielded a dramatic change in the appearance of my documents, even after I changed its main setting to “not alter the appearance of my web page.” Only after I dug deep into its settings was I able to view my documents as they appeared before optimization. Even then, VSE Web Site Turbo still yielded an excellent optimized file.
Therefore, I will make the following recommendations based on my month with the two optimization tools. If you are an advanced or intermediate webmaster who has experience with HTML code, you will probably appreciate the depth and the choices that VSE Web Site Turbo brings, and thus, I recommend VSE Web Site Turbo to you. However, if you are a beginning webmaster, or a webmaster who wants to optimize his site on the fly without having to worry about their design being affected, it’s Mizer that you’ll want to buy, and it’s Mizer that I recommend. Mizer costs $20.00 more, but it will pay for itself in the amount of headaches you save.
I am sincerely impressed with BOTH of these optimization tools, and there is no way I can pick a clear winner. However, it is clear to me that each product has a different skill-base. Please consider your level of web-smithing expertise before making a purchase decision.
Requirements/Availability: Mizer 1.7 is available for purchase and download at Antimony Software’s website, http://www.antimonysoftware.com. VSE Web Site Turbo 3.0.1 is available as a fully-functional demo at http://www.vse-online.com, but requires you to register if you want to publish your pages. Both are available immediatelsy, and include documentation with the download.