In order to find out exactly how fast your website is currently, the first step is to choose a website speed test.
If your website is built using the well known website software package WordPress, there are several plugins available. These WordPress plugins can easily be installed simply by using the ‘plugin manager’ tool.
One of the most popular plugins for website performance testing is the ‘MyWebToNet-PerformanceStats’ plugin. This plugin performs various ‘dyno’ tests of the PHP web server and MySQL backend. The timed results that the website has taken to complete the test is available instantly.
In the description for the WordPress performance test plugin, MyWebToNet adds that the
“MyWebToNet-PerformanceStats plugin does not test for ‘how many hits a second’ your provider allows to your website. Filesystem performance is not tested either. Use it as a performance test to assess how fast a CPU your provider has allocated to your webserver and your MySQL database backend.”
This means that this plugin test will tell you how fast your website is performing at a given moment. It will not indicate however, how many people can visit your site at one time, without the site becoming overloaded and crashing. This is typical of many of the website speed tests mentioned in this article and a limitation to be taken into consideration especially if you are expecting thousand of visitors to one website at the same time.
Another essential tool to determine the load time from various locations is Pingdom. Pingdom is an online website performance testing facility. The user can test their website from various locations including two places in the US and one in Amsterdam, Holland.
Pingdom was founded in 2007 by Sam Nurmi and is based in Sweden. Pingdom aims to provide a service for website owners worldwide, to monitor outages, which means when a website ‘goes down’.
WebPageTest.org also offer a similar service testing website speed
“from multiple locations around the globe using real browsers”
Patrick Meenan created WebPageTest in the US while at AOL and now works at Google with a team that is working to make the web faster. The WPO Foundation (Web Performance Optimization Foundation) is a non-profit for web performance, with the goal to help fund open source web performance projects and public research into web performance.
An alternative website testing site is GTmetrix.com developed by the Gossamer Threads team. GTmetrix was founded by Alex Krohn who is based in Vancouver. GTmetrix checks website speed and grades websites after a quick test where the user simply just enters a website address. Possible technical improvements are highlighted and advice is given on the results. A helpful WordPress Optimization Guide is included by GTmatrix to help web site owners achieve extra fast results.
Google Page Speed Service is still in its beta phase but promises to
“Dynamically rewrite web pages to apply web performance best practices. Page Speed Service serves optimised content via Google servers to reduce round trip times.”
It is a clever concept and Google quote up to 40% increase in page load times. Some developers are not keen on their websites effectively being rewritten by Google and are concerned about control issues. There are also worries that the service may become a paid for by subscription service in the future.
Internet Connection Speed Tests
Other factors determining website speed and the way that the user interprets the website speed are worth being aware of. The users internet speed and how fast their broadband or fiber connection is running will affect how quickly they can read and interact with any chosen website. There can be a speed issue if the distance between the user and the server serving the content is too far apart.
In the UK there are several testing facilities for broadband connections. For example ‘Uswitch’ can measure how fast a broadband connection is and suggest alternative companies that can deliver better download and upload speeds if necessary.
Ookla is another popular international broadband speed testing service. Ookla which can be found at speedtest.net was founded by “internet and telecommunications veterans in 2006” and has offices across the US. Ookla performs
“over 50 million tests per month”.
Ookla also offer a mobile speedtest service amongst their products to analyse the performance of mobile devices connected to the internet.
It is important to test how fast your website loads on a variety of devices from smart phones to tablets. Sites that are responsive should load as easily and appear as quickly and clearly on a smartphone as on a desktop computer.
User Feedback Speed Tests
In addition to the above tests, another idea is to ask business partners and volunteers to visit your website and provide feedback and comments. They can tell you how they found the speed and usability of the website pages and recommend particular sections that could be improved. This could be a useful way of making sure your website has the right speed at the right time for most people.
In his book ‘Usability Engineering’ the author Jakob Nielsen of the Californian based Nielsen Norman Group describes;
“3 main time limits (which are determined by human perceptual abilities) to keep in mind when optimizing web and application performance: 0.1 second is about the limit for having the user feel that the system was reacting instantaneously…1.0 second is about the limit for the user’s flow of thought to stay uninterrupted…10 seconds is about the limit for keeping the user’s attention focused on the dialogue…”
The quantity of text and how long it appears on a webpage is another important consideration for a website. According to Eddie Wren of The Daily Mail.
“The national reading average is 300 words a minute” “Skimming normally provides a reading rate of 700 words per minute” The article defines skimming as “where your eye glances over blocks of writing for keywords” and Wren adds skimming “has become a lot more ingrained for heavy internet users.”
Creating a System for Speed Testing
These website speed tests can be used independently or in combination to create the right system for ensuring that an individual website meets the required speed standard consistently.
A system for checking the speed and functioning of a website and all its pages over time, is an essential part of a successful website management strategy. Mark Knowles at Pixelsilk has written a great ‘Website Launch Checklist’ which recommends that a network administrator is assigned. “A site monitor checks pages regularly to make sure it is available for visitors.”
As the Internet and technology are advancing continually it is worth looking out for the latest news about designing and testing faster websites, to keep your website quick, competitive and up to date.
Head of Development MyWebToNet 28-01-2014 MyWebToNet hosting and performance testing
Pingdom, The Pingdom mission & speed test
Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group (based California) Evidence-Based User Experience Research, Training and Consulting
Eddie Wren, Mail Online, 21-05-2012 “Think you’re a fast reader? Take the speed reading test to see if you can beat the national avaerage of 300 words per minute”
Uswitch 30-01-2014 Compare best broadband providers website:
Ookla 30-01-2014 Broadband speed testing service
GTmetrix 30-01-2014 Website testingdeveloped by Gossamer Threads founded by Alex Krohn, based Vancouver
WebPageTest.org 2014-02-02 by Patrick Meenan
WebPagetest is an open source project that is primarily being developed and supported by Google as part of our efforts to make the web faster.
Mark Knowles at Pixelsilk 2013-08-06 “Website Launch Checklist”
Google’s Page Speed Online Google Developers