“Why is my website too slow?”, this is a common question among website owners. Website loading speed is a crucial SERP ranking factor and a site with a slower speed has 50% fewer chances to get a spot on the first page of search engines. Figuring out why a site’s speed is slow and how to fix it is often frustrating for many people.
If you feel your site is not performing up to the mark, making unfocused changes in hopes to improve your site’s speed isn’t logical.
Ideally, try to figure out the causes of the slow speed by getting hands-on real-time data. There are some tools you can use to check your website’s speed and get a starting point to make improvements.
Although a website’s speed depends on various factors and could be complex, you don’t need to be an expert to get to start checking your website’s speed. Even with a basic understanding of how to use these tools and interpret the results you can make improvements to the speed of your site.
In this article, we will discuss the importance of a website’s speed, how to test it, and how you can interpret the findings.
Importance of a Website’s Speed
When it comes to investing in a site’s improvements, the question of decision-makers is “is it costing me business?”. If the issue is your site’s speed, then the answer to this question is almost a BIG YES!
Improving your website’s speed brings a number of benefits. Let me share some stats with you.
- 40% of people don’t wait for a site to load for more than 3 seconds and leave it immediately.
- If the page loading speed of a site on mobile is more than 5 seconds, 90% of people are more likely to leave the page even before it is fully loaded.
- According to the BBC, they lost 10% of visitors for every second added to the loading speed.
- Pinterest observed a 15% increase in sign-up rate after improving its website performance.
A website with a faster speed improves user experience, and therefore, investing time, recourse, and money in continuous monitoring and improving your website performance can make your users and stakeholders both happy.
Tools Required for Website’s Speed Test
Before you get into figuring out what is slowing your website down, understanding exactly how a website load is really helpful. I would recommend you to read How the Web Works to get a better understanding of what is going behind the scene when a website is loading. This is especially recommended for you if you have recently started a website or you are not into much technical stuff.
In a nutshell, a number of requests and responses happen between a user’s browser and the server before a website is fully loaded. A slow down in any of the moving parts can cause loading issues for your users.
Website speed testing tools measure different metrics and give an insight into how much time every part of the whole loading process takes. Usually, these tools also provide suggestions and recommendations on what to fix on your website to cater to the issues. Each tool differs in the exact data it provides, so to get a full picture, you may need to perform various tests using different tools.
Some of the most popular resources for speed testing are:
- PageSpeed Insights
You can start performing tests on each tool by entering your website’s URL. Some of these tools also provide advanced options such as location, device, and/or browser.
Some useful tips while setting up your speed test are:
- To get an accurate set of results, use the options that represent your website the best. For instance, if you can choose a location, select the one that aligns with your audience location closely if not completely.
- Many tools provide data about both desktop and mobile speed. If this option is available, analyze both sets of information as mobile website speed is usually slower than desktop, and thus, requires more consideration.
- Testing only the homepage is not a smart move. Analyze your analytics and test your most visited or top landing pages as well. Many websites have different features between pages and that can affect loading speed differently. Therefore, perform tests accordingly to ensure a better user experience.
The tool you need to use for speed tests depends totally on your needs and requirements, but to start with Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a good one. As our main focus is to rank a site on Google search, using their data to make improvements is handy from an SEO perspective.
Key Website Speed Metrics
There are many tools that provide useful metrics regardless of what your website’s goals are. Let’s now discuss some of the key metrics and how to improve them.
- Load Time – the overall time a page takes to load
- Page Size – the size of all assets that are required to load a page
- Total Blocking Time (TBT) – how low users are blocked from interacting with a page’s element
- Time to First Byte (TTFB) – the time required by a browser to receive the first byte of content from the server
- Number of requests – requests made by the browser to the server like fonts, images, etc.
- First Contentful Paint (FCP) – how long does it take for a user to see the first bit of content on the screen
Google has recently launched Core Web Vitals which is a collection of metrics used to measure web usability dimensions including load time, interactivity, and the content’s stability as it loads. These core web vitals include:
- LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) – the time it takes for the largest text block or image to appear on the viewport
- CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) – measurement of the amount of layout shifting during page load
- FID (First Input Delay) – how long does a browser takes to start responding when users interact with the page
Once you receive the data, it might not be obvious whether the information you received is good or not. Most tools provide an insight as to what is an acceptable number, whether they are providing an overall grade or comparing it to the related industry.
The scoring can also be subjective somewhat to your site’s content, target audience, site’s goals, and so on. Testing your competitor’s site to check where you are in competition is also helpful.
Go through Google’s information on metrics to check the overall recommended guidelines.
How to Improve your Website’s Speed
Now as you have data and a good understanding of all metrics, you need to identify opportunities to make improvements to your site. Most testing tools identify the issues and make recommendations, thus making things easier for you.
Some of the common culprits of a slower website speed are:
- Server Speed – a slower server response adversely affects several metrics including LCP and TTFB. Try to explore options for server optimization and any other database to ensure quick responses, especially around cache and compression.
- Images – behind large page sizes and increased LCP time, images are usually the main culprit. Make sure to optimize dimensions and file sizes for all images present on your website.
- Third-party Code – some third-party codes like plugins, widgets, and codes can increase load time if they are not managed properly. Be careful what scripts are you using on your website and optimize them wherever possible.
- Redirects – redirects increase the TTFB, so try to avoid them where unnecessary.
- Web fonts – using too many fonts on a page can increase FCP, especially if a visible fallback is not in place. Try to limit the number of fonts used on a page and try optimizing them with the best practices.
- Styles and Scripts – code files that need to load before the content can block loading and are known as “render-blocking”. Render-blocking increases your site’s FCP and LCP, therefore, keep them limited and make sure that all assets are properly compressed. Scripts that need to load after the content should also be optimized so they can load as quickly as possible. This is important because the longer a functionality takes to load, the higher your FID, CLS, and TTI metrics will be.
Now, you can make a plan to tackle any problem your website is facing. However, at this point, you may need to loop in your IT team to confirm technical details before moving a step ahead. Depending on the available resources, prioritize the fixes your site needed.
Please take note that there is a trade-off between your site’s features and its performance. For instance, if a third-party code is slowing down the page speed but it is crucial to reach your business goal, it might be easier to accept it as a trade-off to get to your goals.
Usually, it is a good idea to cater to an issue that is easier to tackle and can have a significant impact on your site’s speed. Optimizing images and enabling cache are good options to start with.
Once you have made changes, retest your site to check the impacts. It is a process of trials and errors to find adjustments that are most effective.
Website speed test and making improvements is an ongoing process. The more dynamic your website is, the more you need to be cautious about its speed. It’s best to monitor your site’s performance to get ahead of any potential issues.