Improving Website Speed
Slow site?! UGH! Improving website speed can be a pain, especially if you don’t know where to start.
So how fast should a website be?
Google expects e-commerce sites to load within 2 seconds? 2 SECONDS! To add to that, the average load time for web pages that are 3Mb is 5 seconds, but over a 3G network (for an average mobile website) could take as long as 19 seconds!
When was the last time you reviewed your website speed?
Luckily, there are many ways to check page load times, the actual speed of your site, etc. Plus, many of the tools out there let you know what to work on, and some even provide step-by-step instructions. Keep in mind that there isn’t necessarily a “one size fits all” tool for this because ultimately, each site has different needs. On a side note, some of the fixes can be a bit overwhelming when seeing them for the first time and rather technical. Don’t fret though! A little reading, research, and implementation can go a long way!
4 Tools to Help With Improving Website Speed
GTMetrix is one of the great website speed tools out there, and it’s easy to use! Just plug in the URL and away it goes! Once it finishes scanning the URL, it’ll give you several different ratings and stats based on many factors that impact website speed. For the Newbies (Newbs), start by focusing on: “Fully Loaded Time,” “Total Page Size,” “Requests,” “Page Speed Score” and “YSlow Score.” Below you’ll find some quick summaries on each of these.
Fully loaded time figures out how long it takes for the entire page to finish loading. Starting with this can give you a pretty good idea on if your website needs some TLC.
Requests refer to what your website retrieves during the loading process. Having a high amount of page requests can drastically slow down a site.
The Page speed score and YSlow scores each give averages on how well optimized each part of your website is (at that moment!) and what you can do to help make it more efficient.
Overall, GTmetrix is pretty straight forward. It has a nice look, it’s quick, and the information flows in a digestible format. There’s a lot of info to consume but take it one step at a time and keep testing to see which improvements have the most impact.
2. PageSpeed Insights
People far and wide will argue the importance of this speed checker due to it being part of Google. Either way, it’s beneficial and helps you to get to where Google suggests you go. So if you’re looking for a tool to improve your website speed and SEO at the same time, give PageSpeed Insights a try!
If you’re new to this, then probably not!
No worries though! The absolute best part of this tool is that it provides instructions on HOW to fix each issue by linking you to step-by-step guides! Each how-to guide provides the technical instructions on how to fix many website optimization problems.
WebPagetest is a fantastic and easy to use website speed tool. It has been around for almost ten years and provides many useful website stats and tests that are directly from the web performance community! If the other tools haven’t grown on you, then try this one!
Once you enter the URL and the test is complete, you’ll see multiple grades on things like Time To First Byte (TTFB), Keep-alive enabled, Compress transfer, Compress images, cache static content, and efficient use of CDN. Down below will give you further breakdowns of times it takes to communicate with the host, first render, fully loads, amount of requests, and size of the website page. Even further down will show you a waterfall of times it took to load each request, the view of the above-the-fold content that loaded, and two pie charts of the different requests with their size (in bytes). A couple of these stats you may be wondering about, and that is entirely understandable due to the sheer amount of information given.
The Website Speed Breakdown
TTFB is the time it takes for the web server to communicate with a browser. This piece of information is important because it can indicate if there’s an issue with the website communicating with a host.
Compress transfer refers to GZip compression which is a technique of delivering smaller files for a faster load experience. Compression can increase your TTFB, but if the website appears to load faster for your users, then you are on your way of creating a better user experience.
Keep-alive enabled keeps your site active even if your host is down for maintenance or other issues.
Compress images indicates whether or not images are scaled to the correct dimensions (your site’s theme sets dimensions).
A quick note on compressing images:
There’s a common misconception when it comes to compressing images. If you use a compression plugin, check to see if it scales down the original image size within your site’s database. Some compression plugins only compress images on pages/posts and not necessarily the original image located within your site’s database. Why is that a problem? Compression plugins that don’t reduce the total size of your site might slow it down even more because installed plugins also take up space! Double whammy! Side note: most compression plugins no longer do this, but some still do!
Progressive JPEGs are awesome to use because at first, they load “blurry” and then clear up as the page loads entirely. It’s a nice little effect, and they seem better than baseline (standard) JPEGs when loading. However, if the page load time is too slow while using baseline JPEGs, the image may appear to be cut off.
Cache static content is when websites use cache memory to help load content more quickly. The results include images, scripts, videos, and web pages.
Effective use of CDN refers to websites which utilize Content Delivery Networks (a CDN). These are surprisingly useful for getting sites to load faster in different parts of the world.
GiftOfSpeed is another great site speed tool and it looks to be extremely promising! The info breakdown is straightforward and flows (in a waterfall format!) nicely.
A few simple stats this tool goes over includes Requests, Total Page Size, when the content is visible, fully loaded, and website score (uses a simple percentage scale of 0-100%). The stats are the same as in the other sections we’ve covered so their metrics should be pretty straightforward.
BONUS: it includes another 15 free tools to help you optimize websites even further!
Until Next Time
That’s it for improving website speed (for now)! Stay tuned for additional UGH! Media blog posts and join our mailing list to receive future updates! We share a new blog every other Monday on helpful tips and how-tos that help you to connect the dots within digital optimization → Social Media | SEO | Optimizing Websites