In the ecommerce world, with great products, comes great responsibility. There’s no point in having a gorgeous web store with a responsive design and products that will attract leads, if your website slows down to a crawl when a push comes to shove! (Black Friday, anyone?)
Your ecommerce website is about to face a traffic spike in the coming holiday season. Assuming you’re doing everything right, such as SEO and marketing, you are sure to have a surge in incoming traffic. But what if you have a surge in outgoing traffic as well because of a slow load time? I am sure you know that would spell disaster for your online venture. Not only will you lose your search engine ranking due to slow load time of your website but also lose customers that are not attracted to purchase from a slow, error-prone website!
One of the vital factors affecting website speed is your choice of hosting provider. If you are hosting your web store on a reliable host under a plan suitable for your needs, then your website speed depends on how you have built the website.
In this article, I will be examining some of the best tools available to test your website loading time. You should test all your websites on these tools to make sure the loading speed is up to the standards of ecommerce design best practices.
I’ll be reviewing and comparing only the free version of these websites. But before that, here is a brief look at the three main outputs of a website load time test.
What the result card looks like?
Almost all the load-time testing websites provide you with a similar report card for your website. There are certain best practices for a website design that are taken into consideration during your website analysis.
These rules comprise mainly of front-end development, which can be applied at any stage of web development. Your website receives a letter grade and a % score depicting how optimized your website really is.
The main feature of a speed test report card is graphical output, showing your website’s backend content breakdown as well as a “waterfall” showing how different elements load.
Now you know what the output looks like, so we start using the tools. Since we are approaching the holiday season, I decided to test a major ecommerce website as a sample test URL: Amazon.
A simple to use tool where you can immediately begin the test of your website. However, I would recommend you sign up for a free account to unlock several customization options for the test.
Once you register, you can choose a test server from one of the seven countries listed. You can choose either Firefox or Chrome (desktop or mobile) as a browser. You can also select the type of internet connection, which includes 3G option.
An “instant replay” option is also available, which shows you exactly how your page renders, slowed down by 4x.
The YSlow result page on GTMetrix is shown below. You can expand a metric to see suggestions for improvement.
The waterfall is a graphical depiction of how much time each individual element takes to load. You can also expand the element details for advanced diagnostics.
The “History” tab shows you previous results in graphical format for the same website. Apart from the HTML/Page Load time graph shown below, you can see “Page Sizes and Request Counts” and “Page Speed and YSlow Scores” in graphical format.
GTMetrix also offers something sweet for developers! Do you want to integrate a RESTful API Web Testing Service into your development environment or application? Well, GTMetrix provides you 20 daily API credits, with each analysis request costing 1 credit. Learn more about this feature here.
It’s also possible to automate load time testing of your website at regular intervals. So convenient!
This is an excellent resource for testing your website. Apart from load time analysis, you can also run an ICMP traceroute on your websites.
For load time analysis, you have a lot of choices spanning North and South America, Europe and Asia for location of the test server. The browser choices are IE 11, Chrome, Canary and Firefox.
Advanced settings allow you to record video of the rendering, choose connection type, capture network log, and you may even insert your own custom script!
The waterfall view is slightly less detailed than the GTMetrix version, as you can not expand individual elements.
However, Webpagetest.org covers that shortcoming with another cool graphical feature that I absolutely loved. It shows you a graph of CPU utilization and Bandwidth In. It’s useful to have this information, as it shows how each of these metrics varies with time.
Yet another technical and highly useful graph is the Connection View. You can use this tool to find out whether it’s the initial connection, DOM content or the on load time which is adding to your total load time the most.
The Content Breakdown page presents a pie chart of the composition of your page by various elements.
Pingdom Website Speed Test
The third website on this list is tools.pingdom.com. This tool offers server locations from a choice of six countries. For free users, there is no option to select the browser or connection speed, which is a drawback compared to GTMetrix and WebPageTest.
The site assigns a performance grade out of 100 to your website with Load time and Page size shown by the analysis. One unique feature is that it shows you the percentile of your website, in terms of performance, compared to all other websites tested on this platform.
The waterfall shows extensive details of each request header.
Unlike other load testing websites, tools.pingdom.com doesn’t rely on PageSpeed or Yslow indicators, it uses its own metrics for measuring your website performance. Each element has expandable details available.
For me, the best feature of this tool is the page analysis tab. It shows you time spent per state (wait, connect, receive etc.), time spent per content type (image, script, HTML etc.) and time spent per domain. This information can help you identify elements which are the most demanding in terms of time, and cut them out of your code.
You can also see Page Load Time, Page Size and Request Count, and Page Speed Score graphs in the History tab.
An industry recognized load test service for websites is Yahoo! YSlow, which is based on 23 different metrics. You can select which rules you wish to apply to your test.
The YSlow report card looks like this. As usual, you have suggestions to improve your shortcomings.
YSlow lacks the Waterfall feature. But it does have the content breakdown as well as Components information. In my view, you’re better off trying GTMetrix if you want to measure your website on YSlow rules.
Google PageSpeed Insight
Finally, we have Google PageSpeed Insight. Here are the metrics on which the score is assigned to your website, after the test.
PageSpeed has a simple interface. It gives you two types of measurements: desktop and mobile.
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