No-one likes a slow website and when you click a link on a page, a bookmark, or type in a URL, you expect to see the page contents appear within a few seconds. If it doesn’t, you begin to wonder whether it is worth waiting or whether you should go elsewhere.
A slow loading website could potentially lose visitors because they are impatient or bored waiting. This is more of a problem on mobile where internet connections often are not as good as with desktop computers.
Google will rank slow websites lower in search results and Facebook has stated that it will not show links to slow loading sites to as many people. Your reach is reduced.
I don’t want to go into all the methods for optimising your website for speed here, but the biggest problem and the most easily fixed is images. See How to speed up your website by optimising the images.
Here are 10 tools that analyse your website in various ways to show how fast or slow it is and what can be done to boost performance.
It has to be said that a lot of the advice provided by these tools is far too technical for most people. Some of the fixes will not mean a thing unless you are fluent in geek speak and are a hardcore website developer.
This does not mean the tools are useless, in fact they are recommended. They will tell you if you have a problem and how bad it is. Some can test your site’s performance on phones as well as desktop computers, and this is valuable because mobile is becoming increasingly important.
Some of the advice offered by these tools is non-technical and it is not all geek speak. Implement whatever advice you can and if a serious problem is highlighted, consider getting help. (See the courses here for example.)
1 WP Engine WordPress Speed Test
WP Engine is a web hosting company that specialises in WordPress hosting, so you’ll see a few marketing pop-ups. After entering your website URL at the WordPress Speed Test it asks you to fill in a form, which requires more information than some people might be willing to give, such as a phone number and email address.
An email is sent after 30 seconds or so and this contains a link which takes you back to the WP Engine site. It shows the load time (time to fetch everything) and render time (time to draw the page). It gives general recommendations for speeding up your site in simple language and a hidden details section can be expanded to show the URLs of objects on the page and their load times.
The results contain some useful information for novices and some geeky stuff too. It's not the best tool, but it's OK.
2 Website Speed Test
Online Domain Tools Website Speed Test is different to most speed testers because it lets you test a number of pages. Five is suggested and this is to get an average of the speed over multiple pages, which should give a more accurate picture of how your site is performing. It’s all very well to make the home page super fast, but this shows what the other pages are like too.
Another unusual feature of this tool is that you are given credits and every action you perform, such as measuring the speed of your site, costs credits. It is a way of preventing people from running hundreds of URLs through the tester.
The results are extremely comprehensive and very detailed. That is brilliant if you are an expert and fluent in geek speak. For ordinary folk, the Page Statistics section is the most readable and it scores pages, and shows load times and sizes. There are some general suggestions of the usual type.
This is a brilliant tool for geeky web developers, but is too technical for most people.
GTmetrix is one of my favourite tools and this is because the results are presented in a way which non-technical people can understand. Enter the URL, the page is analysed, and the results appear.
At the top are two large sections with easy-to-read results. Under Performance Scores is the PageSpeed score and YSlow score. Under Page Details is Fully Loaded Time, Total Page Size and Requests. Below the highlight figures at the top is a large section with all the details spread across six tabs.
You don’t need to understand the technical details because everything is colour coded. Red is bad, orange is OK and green is good. You just look for the red highlighted items to see what is wrong.
It goes further and and if you let the mouse over over items, it tells you what the average is. So even if you don’t understand what the YSlow figure means for example, or any of the other items, hovering the mouse over them will tell you whether you are better or worse than average.
GTmetrix is recommended.
WebPageTest is unusual because it enables you to select a target device on which to test it and the location. For example, you could test it on an iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S7, from the US or Europe, using Chrome or Firefox and so on.
The results include screenshots of the website on the device tested, such as a phone. The speed test runs three times and you can see the average time, requests, bytes, and so on.
Some charts are available that show the load times of various components on the page and the pie chart is the most useful because the biggest piece of pie is the thing that is slowing down your site the most. As usual there is a lot of technical information for geeks.
This is useful for seeing what your site is like on mobile devices.
5 Google PageSpeed Insights
Google PageSpeed Insights is one of the most important speed test tools because Google’s opinion of your site’s performance affects the ranking in search results. The page is clean, clutter free and simple. Just enter your URL.
There are two tabs showing results for mobile and desktop, and different scores are given for each one. It is possible to have a good score for one and not the other. Given the increasing importance of mobile to Google, you should aim to ensure your mobile score is good.
As with all the other services, the advice given for fixing poor performance can often be understood only by expert website developers. It is amusing that some of the problems highlighted were Google ads. Ads do slow down sites, but they also earn money. You have to get the balance right.
This is recommended because it is Google. Pay attention to everything Google says!
6 Google Test Your Mobile Speed
Test Your Mobile Speed is another Google tool, but this one specifically looks at mobile site speed and it evaluates the performance over a 3G connection on a phone.
The results that are displayed include the loading time and the estimated number of visitors that are lost by being slower than 3 seconds. Take this with a large dose of salt because it is more of a fun guess than a real figure.
There is a very useful Industry Comparison chart that shows where you rate compared to other sites with similar content to yours. This is something only Google can do. A more detailed report can be emailed to you if you provide an email address.
Mobile is increasingly important and what Google thinks about your site is critical for good ranking in mobile search.
This is recommended because it is Google.
7 Pingdom Website speed Test
Pingdom Website Speed Test lets you choose the location of the test and the options are Texas, California, Australia and sweden. This might make it useful if your server is in one part of the world and you have large audiences in another.
The results are more readable than some and some of the items are obvious even to non-technical people. There is a simple performance grade, load time, page size and number of requests. It also tells you how your site compares to others, such as faster than 56% of sites tested.
There is a huge amount of detail that can only be understood by web developers, but there are also some simpler sections. The red, green and orange traffic light system shows the good and bad points. Content types are listed by size and percentage, and there is a timeline.
Pingdom provides a good report with results for novices and geeks.
8 Uptrends Free Website Speed Test
Free Website Speed Test is another test tool that enables you to select locations and you are provided with a list of city names from around the world. Pick a city, enter your URL and it tests your site.
It produces what is called a waterfall chart and while this is useful for website developers, it isn’t very useful for the rest of us. Best give this one a miss.
9 keycdn Website Speed Test
Website Speed Test is similar to the previous site speed test and you can choose from 14 locations around the world to test your site’ The results are displayed as a waterfall style timeline, which is useful for geeks, but not for other people. There are better tools than this.
10 Website Speedtest with Dareboost
Website Speedtest with Dareboost has an interesting set of options that you don’t get with some of the other tests. For example, you can choose whether to test your site on desktop or mobile, and if you choose mobile there are six different phones to choose from, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6, iPhone 6 and others. You can also choose the location.
There is a very nicely presented non-technical section at the start of the results that anyone can understand. There is an overall score, issues, improvements and successes figures. A very nice graphic shows the time for the first byte, render starting, and fully loaded times. The requests and weight widget shows pop-up information as the mouse passes over the sectors.
A large geeky section below shows the details and a red, orange, green traffic light system highlights the good and the bad points.
This site speed test is recommended because there is information for both novices and geeks.
The same web page was used with each test, yet all produced slightly different speed test results. Even if you run the same test twice you might get slightly different results.
The reason is that internet traffic may be higher on one test than another, like getting stuck in a traffic jam in your car affects your journey time, the site may be busier during one speed test run than another, with more people trying to access it at the same time.
Don't trust one result, run the speed test several times and get an average. You may find differences at peak times and quiet times of the day too.