4 Great Tools to Test Website Load Speed

Introduction

Simple presentation websites, e-shops or complex web applications – all bring up the same challenge for the developers: the loading time. If your website or web application is intended to be used by a broad public audience, then you want (and need) to get the content available for the user as soon as possible. And while the whole development process is a bit more complex (going through deciding the correct architecture, user-centered design, the right technology etc), there are a lot of situations when you may end up in the need of some speed improvements. That is exactly when you’ll find these 4 tools incredibly useful.

One important mention here: in many cases, even if your application is available to a broad public audience, it runs behind an authentication layer (as a private or closed community / as a tool). You may not be so inclined to handle the speed topic if your application is an invoicing tool or a ERP solution. But you should consider trying to provide the users with a nice experience, even if they are already members / clients. Performance assesments can provide a lot of insights, and having in mind that there has been an increase in popularity for using front-end frameworks, information on things like speeding up the JavaScript execution would look like an interesting check point.

Editor note: Speaking of JavaScript – this programming language is more and more popular, even in academic environment. One interesting example is promoted by this Medium story: Stanford just abandoned Java in favor of JavaScript for its intro CS course. But do use JS with caution, especially when you’re trying to rank high in search engine result pages.¬†


Tools for Testing Website Load Speed

To get back to the topic of this article, the performance assesment process needs the right tools. Even if you are not a developer, but perform a project management or a business analyst role, you can still collect a lot of relevant data on the areas your website / application can be improved in terms of loading time, if you’re willing to try out some of the following tools:

1. Google Chrome DevTools Рis probably the most popular tool for developers. Using the Network tab you can collect a lot of relevant information in a Waterfall Chart-type of view, while analyzing the total number of requests, the DOMContentLoaded time and the number of kb transferred. By reading this piece of content, you can discover new ways to analyze how your website / web application is loading.

2. GTmetrix – is an online solution that will provide actionable recommendations on how to optimize the web page you’ve tested out. It’s quite easy & fast to use. With GTmetrix you also get the Google Page Speed and Yahoo! Yslow scores (and improvement suggestions), plus the Waterfall chart (which you also get in Google Chrome). Understanding how resources load and why both “http” and “https” version add up to the loading time helps, but it’s not required.

3. Pingdom Website Speed Test – is a really simple tool that will provide information like the number of requests, the page size, the load time and will grade your site performance based on a number of parameters. The tool also provides lists with content size by content type, requests by content type and the same ol’ Waterfall chart.

4. Sucuri Load Time Tester – is a nice tool that will help you analyze your site performance by measuring how long it takes to connect to it, from multiple locations across the globe. This is really useful if you’re thinking on upgrading your web hosting account or if you’re thinking on opening up your business to other markets. The tool will also grade your “global” performance, based on Total Time needed for the site to load.


Why is page speed important?

In another article we’ve published here, on the Infobest blog, we’ve emphasized taking care of the application performance, especially because it has such a powerful impact on organic traffic (search engine result pages positioning) and the conversion as well. But that mention is valid for any type of site that requires web traffic in order to exist as a project. Would you see any point in setting up and running a PPC campaign and spending big bucks on relevant users that, in the end, have a bad site-experience or have to wait 6-7 seconds in order to buy something or sign-up?

Editor note: If you’re using WordPress for your website / e-store and you’d like to get better performance, but don’t know how to get started with reducing requests and caching, here is shortlist of WP plugins that you might find useful: Scalability Pro | W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache | WP Smush for image compression on upload | P3 Plugin Performance Profiler – which will help you understand which of your installed plugins are “eating” up resources | CloudFlare WP | BJ Lazy Load.

If you don’t know where to start (the methods and the order), in terms of what you should be doing with caching, compression or chosing the right configuration for your web hosting account or private server, but you do know a couple of competitor sites that seem to perform nicely, you can test out dareboost’s measurement tool. You just have to input the two sites you’re comparing and run the tool. Once you have seen the areas were the competitor site seems to perform better, you can dig into the matter by researching the tools / methods to improve those bits in your applications. One thing at a time.

Conclusions

The performance optimization process is a matter that falls into the task of a technical resource, but it is often overlooked due to the lack of time or not-so-great prioritization. But by using such simple tools, that will provide you with a list of suggestions and recommendations, any project manager or analyst can obtain an insight of what needs to be done in order for the site / application to perform better. A fast site means a better user experience and that translates, in most cases, into a conversion. You spent hours on architecture, design and implementation. Why not spend few hours for performance optimization, as well? Especially since you now have the right tools to get started.

If you want to suggest other tools (that you have used in the past and found useful) or if you want to tell us about a different approach on the website load speed topic, please use the comment form below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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