Know what’s slowing down your site
To get to the solution, you first have to know what’s causing the problem.
Ryan, 1902 Software’s project manager for WordPress, often sees clients using very large images on their websites, not knowing that it can affect page speed. “It’s a common thing that people don’t realize is slowing down their site. More often than not, it’s aesthetics over speed.”
“Another common issue that comes up for CMS [content management system] users, especially WordPress, is installing plugins that are meant to be used for a specific page only,” Ryan adds.
These are just some of the more common issues, and sometimes it’s relatively simple issues like these—issues that stem from the website owner, editor, or marketer being unaware of what to do and what not to do with respect to speed—that are causing the slow loading time of a page.
Other times, the issue may be deeper in the website’s code and needs technical guidance to be resolved.
But the common denominator of these issues is that unless you are aware of them, you will not be able to address them.
What’s causing a slow loading time is not always obvious—if it were, then you would have done something about it by now.
Especially for more complex issues that lie in the code, you may need developers to take a look at your site and determine what’s not working and causing problems.
For “general diagnosis”, though, most speed and performance testing tools offer insights and suggestions on what’s causing your website to load slowly. Here are some that we’ve found useful for our own projects:
1. Google’s Test My Site – This tool measures the mobile page speed in terms of the First Contentful Paint, or the point at which the first piece of content loads on your page.
For top performing sites, this tool also provides the site speed, or the measure of the speed of all pages within your site, based on real world data collected through the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX).
Test My Site provides basic suggestions on how to improve mobile page speed, as well as two additional features: the Industry Benchmark, where you can see how you measure up with top performing sites in your industry, and the Impact Calculator, which we have discussed previously, where you can measure speed’s impact on your business by getting an estimate on potential revenue increase with a faster loading time.
2. Lighthouse – This is an auditing tool that can be run as a Chrome extension, or directly within Chrome DevTools (i.e., the set of web developer tools built in the Google Chrome browser that’s usually accessible when you right click and Inspect a web page).
Lighthouse scores a page on different categories: performance, progressive web app, accessibility, best practices, and SEO.
The performance score is based on different metrics: first contentful paint, first meaningful paint, speed index, first CPU idle, time to interactive, and estimated input latency.
Aside from the score, Lighthouse also points out possible causes of your page’s slowdown, and provides actionable suggestions for improving page performance and corresponding savings on load time.
3. Page speed insights – This provides insights on your page speed for both desktop and mobile.
Page speed insights largely uses Lighthouse data for testing speed, and therefore reports the same metrics that Lighthouse uses.
It’s worth noting, however, that Page speed insights and Lighthouse (accesed from within Chrome DevTools) can sometimes produce different results. [This is our observation from our own tests, but generally, the results should be within the same range.]
Aside from the lab data analyzed by Lighthouse, it also presents real world user experience data from CrUX when available for the site.
4. WebPageTest – This lets you simulate how your page loads in a specific location and browser, so this is especially ideal for businesses with customers coming from different regions in order to get a better overview of how your pages load for your target users.
Aside from the location, WebPageTest also lets you select the browser and many other advanced settings that will help you further analyze your website’s performance.
5. GTmetrix – GTmetrix is a suite of different features that focus on improving web performance, and comes in both a free and paid version.
It analyzes a web page based on indicators set by Google and Yahoo, and reports different metrics such as page load time, page size, and number of requests.
GTmetrix also lets you playback videos of page loads for a closer look at possible loading issues or a frame-by-frame view of real-time page load.
There’s also an option to set up automated monitoring of pages and notifications for different conditions that indicate poor page performance, like too slow loading time or a significant increase in total page size.
6. Pingdom – Much like GTmetrix, Pingdom offers different features for monitoring your website’s speed and performance.
They have a speed testing tool that lets you test the loading time from a specific location, and the pro solution even provides a feature to monitor actual users that visit your site.
This helps in identifying real world bottlenecks that users may be experiencing when your site is loading.
Like any undertaking, speed optimization will be most efficient when you first understand what you’re working with (e.g., your current speed, the resources and elements that you need and have, etc.), and get to the root of what the likely causes are for your slow loading time.
In the next article, we’ve gathered some best practices and tips on how to speed up your website from our own project managers here at 1902 Software.
Next: How to speed up your website »