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Your page load time affects everything from your conversion rate (number of website visitors performing the desired action), bounce rate (number of visitors navigating away from your website) to your overall revenue loss or gain. Amazon, for example, increased their sales rate by 1% as a direct result of increasing their speed rate by 100 milliseconds. This equals $1.6 billion in revenue (for Amazon) per just one second. According to most recent research, 250 milliseconds is what keeps your targeted customers from choosing your competitor over you.

Many tools on the web help you perform a website speed test, also to compare your page load time with that of your competitors. The test results help you in narrowing down the list of problems which are causing delays. Whether these are too many HTTP requests, slow caching, image formats, hosting service, junk lines in your code, DNS name resolving… Immediate statistics will help you avoid downtime and errors. Also, they will help tuning in your site for the best performance both on desktop and mobile browsers (which are becoming more popular, although slower). Finally, you can run a website speed test from multiple locations around the globe. In this way, you gain a better insight into your business, as well as different markets in the region, and can plan the strategy for improvements.

Slow Site is NOT an Option

Even a giant, such as Amazon, can suffer a loss of $1.6 billion from a slowdown of page load time of just a single second (http://www.fastcompany.com/1825005/how-one-second-could-cost-amazon-16-billion-sales). In other words, each 1 second delay results in a direct loss of your sales money. The loss in conversion rate (number of website visitors actually performing the desired action) is said to be -7%, per a second delay. Also, the number of Mobile Web users around the world has now topped 1 billion and it is soaring. Mobile devices are slower, and yet 21% of mobile device users say they expect their load times on their phone to be about equal with their desktop, while 12% say they expect their load times on their phone to be faster than their desktop.

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Image 1 – 57% of online consumers will abandon a site after waiting 3 seconds for a page to load (Source: Strangeloop)

Faster site not only keeps your revenue and customers growing, 57% of which will leave a site after waiting 3 seconds for a page to load (Strangeloop), but makes your business scalable and saves money on software and hardware, as well as installing, maintaining and supporting a server, if you choose to implement a content delivery network (CDN) over a standard one. Usually, to decrease a page load time, CDNs are the surest way to achieve desired results.

How to Run a Speed Test

Here is a list of nifty tools that will run you a website speed test, and for free.

pingdom

Image 2 – Pingdom page speed test (Source: http://tools.pingdom.com/)

  • Pingdom Tools is a global network of servers that monitor your site throughout the whole year. Implements an alert system.
  • Page Speed Online analyzes your website’s performance under Google’s Web Performance Best Practices.
  • YSlow is a Yahoo’s tool available as a plug-in for Firefox and Chrome. It provides a detailed report card and adds a grade (A, B,…F) according to your overall performance score.
  • Which Loads Faster compares load rates of your own websites with that of your competitors. Runs entirely on client-side.
  • WebPageTest tool allows you to run a free website speed test from multiple locations around the globe using real browsers (Firefox, Chrome, IE) and from different geographical regions.
  • Load Impact runs on cloud servers and gives you an all-time access to your test configurations and test results. Involves a premium account for more than 50 simulated users.
  • Octa Gate offers a bird’s view insight into the site load time for each of your pages and presses this information in a grid.

To consult more site speed measuring tools, visit:

Google’s Best Practices

We highly recommend reading Yahoo’s and Google’s Best Practices for Performance and Speeding Up Your Website:

Besides a Page Speed test, Google offers Web Performance Best Practices with detailed analysis and optimization advice. The rules fall into six categories:

Optimize caching – caching can be fixed for the files that tend to change, and in cases when browser isn’t sure whether a cached file can be used or not: by adding a time label to a file (last-modified), for example, or by adding it an identifier such as ETag, or an expiry rule.

Minimize round trip times – for a browser to initiate a first-time connection with a web server, it must incur a minimum of 3 RTTs: 1 RTT for DNS name resolution, 1 RTT for TCP connection setup, and 1 RTT for the HTTP request and the first byte of the HTTP response. Many will require dozens of RTTs which is a huge factor contributing to latency. Minimizing the number of RTTs is crucial to improving a page load time, even for “fast” broadband connections.

Minimize request overhead – minimizing request overhead for each page to load simply means keeping cookies and request headers as small as possible, and serving static resources from a cookieless domain.

Minimize payload size – the essential data that is being carried within a packet across the internet, i.e. cargo of a data transmission, is known as payload. Best chances in reducing overweight in a payload involve compression and minimization of text based files such as scripts or styles, re-compression of some downloadable files, zero-body components… If you minimize on the payload size, network latency can be significantly reduced and your bandwidth bill will also be smaller.

Optimize browser rendering – Once all resources have been downloaded to the client, and all the processes have been optimize, the browser still needs to load, interpret, and render all of them. Performance optimization is thus not complete until the browser side characteristics have been enhanced as well. The main rules while enhancing the performance on client side are using efficient CSS selectors, avoiding CSS expressions, putting CSS in the document head, specifying image dimensions, and specifying a character set.

Optimize for mobile – 79% of large online advertisers still do not have a mobile optimized site (Google/Kelsey 2010) and yet, it is estimated that there are almost 1.2 billion mobile Web users in the world. Mobile device CPU capabilities are even lower than that of desktop computers, which makes the round trip time even longer, and adds to the page load time. Launching a mobile optimized website along with a browser optimized one, is crucial for businesses.

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