Assess Your Website Performance in under Ten Minutes

Laptop with a website speedometer at 100Mb and a hand holding a stopwatch at 10 minutes.

The Problem: You need to determine how fast your website is loading

You’re at the management-level, your website is “slow“, but you’re not sure why or how to go about determining how slow it really is, or if there could be other performance-related problems. You want to get an assessment quickly, and on your own.

The Solution: Execute a simple performance test on one or more pages on your website

Below I’ve included a shortlist of tools you can use to assess your website performance, along with some notes regarding what to look for. The goal is to give the non-technical reader some insight in less than ten minutes, so I’ve pointed out what to pay attention to in order to achieve that goal.

Problems with this approach: If your website performance is not consistent, one test may not reveal this problem.

Determining when a fast website page load time is fast enough

If your business has an e-commerce website, then it’s important that it be optimized to its fullest (practical) potential, and the optimization effort may happen continuously. If, however, you do not make money directly from your website, consider making improvements for a solid user experience, and to achieve higher rankings with respect to Google and Bing.

The following set of tools are all free and all related — I’d suggest trying all of them because they’ll give you a varying perspective on potential problems that your website may need to have addressed:

Performance testing with WebPagetest.org

WebPagetest.org set up performance test page including pointers to the target website URL, the test location, and the browser.
WebPagetest.org performance test configuration page.

Once the test has completed the results are displayed on the following page, below.

WebPagetest.org example web page performance test results for a specific URL including pointers to the overall test results and the load time.
WebPagetest.org example web page performance test results.

Performance testing with Google PageSpeed Insights

Google PageSpeed Insights with pointers to the web page URL and analyze button.
Google PageSpeed Insights page where the user enters the target URL and then analyzes that page.

Once the test has completed the results are displayed on the following page, below.

Google PageSpeed Insights: Performance Results with pointers to the desktop optimization score, the page stats, and the optimization suggestions.
Google PageSpeed Insights: Performance test results.

Performance testing with Pingdom Tools / Page Speed

Pingdom Website Speed Test with pointers to the URL, the test from location, and the start performance test button.
The Pingdom Website Speed Test test configuration page.

Once the test has completed the results are displayed on the following page, below.

Pingdom Performance Insights with pointers to the load time and to the performance test insights grades and suggestions.
The Pingdom Performance Insights test results page.

Performance testing with GTmetrix

GTmetrix Dashboard: Analyze Performance Of page with pointers to the target URL textbox and the analyze button.
GTmetrix Dashboard: Analyze Performance Of a target URL.

Once the test has completed the results are displayed on the following page, below. Note that GTmetrix provides two tabs here — the PageSpeed tab and the YSlow tab.

The GTmetrix PageSpeed tab

PageSpeed tab: Performance Scores and Page Details with pointers to the page details, fully loaded time, and the PageSpeed recommendation and grade -- consider addressing anything with a grade of
PageSpeed tab: Performance Scores and Page Details.

The GTmetrix YSlow tab

YSlow tab: Performance Scores and Page Details with recommendation and grade -- consider addressing anything with a grade of
The YSlow performance test results tab.

Performance test results often differ for desktop vs Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP)

We need to be careful to avoid the mistake of assuming that if a page loads quickly on the desktop version that it will load just as quickly for mobile devices — an example will help drive this point home.

Below we include the GTmetrix performance test results for the desktop (non Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP)) URL to this article and we can see that the GTmetrix Grade of “A” is outstanding.

The GTmetrix performance test results for
The grade of “A” is great but we need to keep in mind that this is for the desktop version of the page, not the AMP version.

We should also test the AMP version of the same page and in this example, we’ll see that the GTmetrix score is a “C”, which is acceptable but if this was an e-commerce website with significant traffic from mobile devices, this might well be unacceptable.

In the following example, we can see the performance test results for the AMP version of the same page and in this case, the GTmetrix performance test grade is an acceptable, but unimpressive, “C”

The GTmetrix performance test result for the
The grade of “C” is acceptable for the AMP version but not great.

So the lesson learned is that if the website supports both non-AMP and AMP versions of pages, we should performance test both — especially if the site receives a significant percentage of visitors using mobile devices.

Bonus HTTP/2 Test

Is your website using HTTP/1.1 or HTTP/2? Amazon and PayPal are still using HTTP1.1, while LinkedIn supports HTTP/2. Supporting HTTP/2 is something to consider as it may positively impact performance and you can determine this using the KeyCDN HTTP/2 Test tool.

Conclusion

  • Test several pages and test more than once.
  • Test using different locations.
  • Compare performance metrics before and after a change has been made.
  • Erratic or strange behavior may be indicative of a problem on the server.
  • Not everything reported by these tools needs to be addressed and/or have an A-rating.
  • Add to this list – the more perspective you have, the better.

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Further Reading

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