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How to Measure Your Site’s Web Performance

Lets face it, nobody likes a website that takes forever to respond. In our fast-paced society you sometimes have only seconds to capture your reader’s attention before they move on to the next article. You don’t want to burn those precious moments forcing your readers to look at a blank page. Getting to the root of why your website is slow is not always an easy process; you may even want to consider hiring an agency to perform a site audit for you. If you are the do-it-yourself kind of person and want to learn how to audit your own site, here are some helpful terms to be familiar with.

  1. Speed Index – This is the average time it takes for visible page elements to be displayed measured at .1 second intervals until the page is visually complete. For example, a page that takes four seconds to load but waits until half-way into the third second to show anything, will have a higher score than a page that more gradually loads items. A lower score means faster visual progress when loading the page. According to webpagetest.org, an average speed index on a 5Mbps cable connection is 4493 milliseconds.
  2. Time to First Byte (TTFB) – This one is pretty self-explanatory. TTFB measures from the time a client makes a HTTP request to when the client receives the first byte of information from the server. A high TTFB could indicate that your server is taking an unusually long time processing query data.
  3. Start Render – Start Render measures the first point in time that something is displayed on your user’s screen. This could be something as simple as a background color. It is your user’s first indication that something is actually happening. A page that loads in four seconds but has a high start-render time will appear less responsive to your users than a page that fully loads in the same amount of time but has a lower start render time.
  4. Fully Loaded – This is a measurement of the time between the initial user navigation and until two seconds have passed with no network activity. This is a very broad measurement that includes all client and server activity. It is not very useful for establishing specific problems with your site but can be a good final measurement of your site’s performance.

Great! Now that we know what to look for, let’s explore some tools that make measuring these things a breeze.

  1. webpagetest.org is a super easy to use tool that gives exhaustive reports on your site’s performance. The essential results are easily displayed at the top of the results, giving you an immediate view of your site’s performance.
  2. speedcurve.com measures basically the same wide array of tests that webpagetest does, but also allows you to see a history of your previous tests. When you create an account with speedcurve, you have access to a wide variety of professionally formatted charts and graphs including filmstrips of your speed index. This is great if you are presenting your findings.

Once you’ve gotten a good idea of how your site is performing, you can bring this information to a professional who can recommend how to increase your site’s responsiveness.  Perhaps you need to switch to a new hosting provider, or maybe you should hire a developer to optimize your code. Whatever needs to be done, having these numbers before you talk to a web professional will save you time and money.



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