Did you know that most people will exit your website if it does not load in a just in a few seconds? Improving the load time of your website should be at the top of your priority list. But how do you figure out how long it takes to load your website and where the issues lie? Here are a few simple tools to test the performance of your website.
The six best website speed test tools
Fast or Slow
Fast or Slow is brought to you by the Wordfence team and is a free site speed diagnostic tool. It uses Lighthouse to test site speed from different geographic regions, simulating how a browser will download content.
Pingdom's easy to use speed testing tool displays everything that loads on your website in what is called a 'waterfall' view. Your website will also be given a score, so you can determine how your website compares to others. You can also apply several filters to identify issues on your website. For beginners, this is a good introduction to testing your website speed. Pingdom uses onload time to calculate a load time.
GTmetrix is usually my go to for speed testing as it identifies a number of performance issues and makes recommendations. This is a better solution than Pingdom if you know how to apply the information given to you. GTmetrix makes use of 'fully loaded time' load time calculation, which waits for the entire page to be loaded.
Google PageSpeed Insights
Why not use the tool given by search engine giant Google? Google PageSpeed Insights will give you real page load times for both First Contentful Paint (FCP) and DOM Content Loaded (DCL). These are basically two different ways of deciding when your site is “finished loading”.
Google Mobile Speed Test
This tool is based on PageSpeed Insights but specifically geared towards testing if your website is mobile-friendly. If your website isn't mobile-friendly, chances are you're missing out on a bunch of conversions and organic traffic from Google, since its a large ranking indicator.
An ex-engineer of Google put this open source tool together that allows you to run a free website speed test from multiple locations around the world, using a variety of real browsers like Chrome, FireFox and Safari. If you're an advanced user who requires additional information, definitely check out WebPagetest.
Two things to consider when running tests
1. Test servers in different geographic locations
The starting point of your test will naturally have an effect on the page load times. To start, you should test from a location that's close to where you'll be receiving traffic from. It's also a good idea to thoroughly test out different locations, so your website loads fast just about everywhere. If you've picked up that some areas are slower than others, it might be worth spending a little money on a Content Delivery Network (CDN) like Cloudflare, which distributes your website on various servers across the world.
2. The load time is calculated differently
The load time you see using each tool will differ considerably. That's because what they define as 'load time' is not equal. There are several methods of recording load time like DOM content loaded, first contentful paint, on-load time and fully loaded time. Some tools calculate the time until everything a human sees, while others might wait until everything is loaded.