Website speed is the cornerstone of user experience. If the page loads in more than three seconds, your visitor might move on and you lose a chance to convert.
Thus, no WordPress website owner can afford to ignore website speed. In addition to the UX, also check website speed as this is an important signal in SERP rankings. In fact, page load speed is among the few openly accepted Google SERP ranking signals. The website speed is also essential for improved bounce rate and increased session time.
Now let’s assume you have done search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing right and as a result, the website has brag-worthy traffic. But what if all your efforts go down the drain due to slow loading web pages?
You will lose your search engine ranking, and more importantly lose potential customers who prefer a perfect, fast loading website.
Check website speed if you are serious about your website performance, and the easiest way of conducting such tests is by using online web testing tools.
- Why Page Speed Is Important?
- What Website Speed Test Tools Analyze?
- Best WordPress Website Performance Testing Tools
We already have written an extensive guide on speeding up a WordPress website. Today, I will explore several WordPress website speed test tools and demonstrate how you can use them to analyze your website performance.
Why Page Speed Is Important?
Great user experience is only possible if the page loads in under three seconds. Smooth loading content and images are pleasant to watch and people tend to interact more when they are not annoyed by lousy page speed.
Many website owners often overlook page load speed because they do not test their websites regularly. In fact, a website gets evaluated for speed right after it’s uploaded for the very first time. After that, not many website owners test their websites and rely upon the user comments for fixing speed related issues.
Page load speed directly affects the website’s bounce rate because the users often do not click internal links on a page because of the slow page load speed. Additionally, page load speed is a serious factor when it comes to increasing the average session time. Fast loading pages encourage visitors to interact more with the website and go deeper into the related resources mentioned on the pages. As a result, the site becomes ‘sticky” with greater chances of conversion.
All these factors are important for building and retaining your brand’s image and give you an edge in market competition.
What Website Speed Test Tools Analyze?
So far, I have established the importance of checking website speed. To understand how these tools contribute to the performance evaluation of your website, it is important to understand the following parameters these tools analyze.
Note: One of the most important factors that affect website performance is the hosting provider that hosts the website. If the hosting provider regularly patches and updates the server, the website would perform great in website speed tests.
Time to First Byte (TTFB)
Time to First Bite (TTFB) is the time taken by a web server to start responding to the request sent by the browser. It is directly connected to the latency of the hosting provider and the actual server your website is hosted on. Several providers such as Cloudways use an advanced stack to overcome the latency issue on the server level. Hosting your website on the data center closest to your target audience also helps in reducing TTFB.
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is another way of improving the TTFB of WordPress website. This network serves the website’s static content from the server closest to the requesting client. This removes the latency issues caused by the distance between the server and clients. Note that the CDN works the best for websites with a truly global audience. If your audience is localized, you might not enjoy the full impact of a CDN integration with your WordPress websites.
Render-Blocking is carried out by managing the requests to specific resources. In the case of fetching an external JS file, it should be aligned with the HTML. This reduces the number of requests sent out to an external server. In the case of CSS files, it is better to reduce/merge to align it with HTML. It can save trips from the external server to the user browser. Additionally, optimize CSS by reducing the number of CSS files.
Minification is another parameter, which majority of the website testing tools highlight. Minification is the process of reducing CSS and JS files’ size by eliminating comments, white spaces and newline characters. Make sure to test before applying to a live website as CSS is popular in breaking the website if not implemented correctly.
One of the vital factors affecting website speed test is your choice of hosting provider. If you are hosting your website on a reliable host, then your website speed depends on how you have built the website.
HTTP is a transfer protocol which is used when a request is made by a client and the response is sent by the server. HTTP requests are triggered for all dynamic calls, and the number of these requests add up to have a negative impact on the web page load speed.
These HTTP requests can be handled and optimized for speed by:
- Combining CSS and JS files (when possible) to reduce the number of HTTP calls.
- Using CSS sprites
Avoiding unnecessary third-party plugins as they generate HTTP requests to fetch information/data from the server
Best WordPress Website Performance Testing Tools
1. Google Page Speed Insights
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a great tool that checks website speed to rate their website performance on various parameters. This free tool scores both the desktop and mobile versions for speed and performance. The scoring for the mobile version is particularly important because of the increasing mobile traffic websites receive these days.
The first set of tri-color horizontal bars represents the FCP (First Contentful Paint) which means the time website takes to paint the content on the screen. In the scenario above, the website loaded 65% of the page content in less than 1.1s. The second bar represents DCL (DOMContentLoaded) which shows when the DOM is ready.
On the same page, it also suggests the possible user optimizations and the places for better results such as image optimization, minification of JS and CSS and browser caching.
GTmetrix is another free tool for checking website speed. The tool has become very popular in the WordPress community because of the detailed performance reports. I recommend signing up for a free account that unlocks several customization options for the website performance test.
You can choose a test server locations from the seven available with the account. Additionally, you can select either Firefox or Chrome (desktop or mobile) as the test browser. You can also select the type of internet connection, which includes the 3G option.
The scorecard of GTmetrix comprises of two sections: top tabs and bottom list. The top tabs display the overall page speed score, YSlow Score that deals mainly with the front-end structure of your website, load time, page size and number of requests.
The bottom list gives performance insights in detail. It is further divided into PageSpeed, YSlow, Waterfall, Timings, Video and History tabs respectively. Each contains useful insight and tells you exactly where the problem resides.
The Waterfall is a graphical depiction of how much time each element takes to load. You can also expand the element details for advanced diagnostics.
The History tab shows your previous results in a 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 incredible for developers who are looking to test website speed! Do you want to integrate a RESTful API Web Testing Service into your development environment or application? Well, GTmetrix provides you with 20 daily API credits, with each analysis request costing one credit.
It is also possible to automate load time testing of your website at regular intervals conveniently!
3. Pingdom Tools
Pingdom is an excellent tool to check website speed as it lets you choose test servers from seven different locations. However, for free accounts, there is no option to select the browser or connection speed, a serious drawback of Pingdom Tools.
The tool 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, regarding performance, compared to all other websites tested on this platform.
The waterfall shows extensive details of each request header.
Unlike other tools, Pingdom Tools does not rely on Page Speed or YSlow indicators; it uses its metrics for measuring your website performance. Each element has expandable details available.
The way I see this tool, the best feature is the Page Analysis tab. It shows the time spent per state (wait, connect, receive, etc.), time spent per content type (image, script, HTML, etc.) and time spent per domain. This information often proves to be a great help in identifying page elements that add to the overall page load time.
You can also see Page Load Time, Page Size and Request Count, and Page Speed Score graphs in the History tab.
WebPageTest.org is an excellent tool to check website speed to evaluate the speed of your website. Apart from load time analysis, you can also run an ICMP traceroute on your websites.
For load time analysis, you have many choices spanning North and South America, Europe and Asia for the location of the test server. The browser choices are IE 11, Chrome, Canary and Firefox. It also supports mobile devices for Android and iOS.
Advanced settings of this page speed insights tool allow you to record video of the rendering, choose a connection type, capture network log, and you may even insert your custom script!
Like GTmetrix and Pingdom Tools, this tool also gives grading but on different parameters. Other details include load time, Time to First Byte, a number of requests of the complete document and the page is fully loaded.
The waterfall view is slightly less detailed than the GTmetrix version, as you cannot expand individual elements.
However, WebPageTest covers this shortcoming with another cool graphical feature that I love. It shows a time-based graph of CPU utilization and Bandwidth.
Another technical and highly useful graph is Connection View. You can use this tool to find out whether it is 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.
YSlow is the web testing tool to check website speed developed by the tech giant Yahoo! To use this tool, you have to install the browser extension that is available for all major web browsers. Visit their website and download the extension.
The tool tests your website on 23 factors that are the key website performance metrics.
The YSlow report card looks like this. As usual, you have suggestions to improve website shortcomings.
YSlow lacks the Waterfall feature. However, it does have the Content Breakdown and Components information. In our view, you are better off trying GTmetrix if you want to measure your website on YSlow rules.
5. New Relic
New Relic is an Application Performance Management tool (APM). It is a next-generation tool for monitoring your website for various performance metrics. This tool highlights all major issues that are slowing down your website.
New Relic APM dashboard contains tabs for different reports. WordPress specific tab is handy for WordPress users as it gives you an in-depth overview of your WordPress related activity, which includes plugins, themes and external resources acting on your WordPress website.
Other useful insights include database monitoring, which helps you identify and analyze database behavior and how effectively it handles the queries, and the Service Level Agreement (SLA), which shows the behavior and performance of your website in a specific period. We can compare it to analyze the key metrics for optimum performance in peak hours.
New Relic is a great tool adopted by dynamic teams, which cares even for a slight change in website performance. It helps them in identifying issues in real time and act upon them without wasting any time.
UpTrends is an easy-to-use tool for checking website speed. Just like Google PageSpeed Insights tool, it also lets you test your WordPress website speed on both desktop and mobile as well as on the type of bandwidth. It gives the overall review of the website just like Pingdom and GTmetrix.
The test report is divided into two sections: Waterfall and Domain Group.
Domain Group is a unique perspective to analyze the website according to the resources like a first party and third party source.
8. Yellow Lab Tools
It is another WordPress speed test website to check website speed. Yellow Lab Tools is free to use and offers options to develop your customized testing environment.
It lets the user define cookies, enter author credentials if the website is password protected: proxy settings, and a domain which user likes to block while testing.
Scorecard of Yellow Lab Tools is vivid and displays key metrics using multiple colors. These metrics include some requests, DOM complexity that is the key feature of this tool and other front-end related parameters.
9. Sucuri Load Time Tester
Sucuri, the most popular WordPress security plugin also offers a website speed test tool. It provides valuable insights into how long it took your website to load a complete page. It also evaluates connection from multiple locations and shows the time for the first byte.
The second part of the scorecard gives graphical representation for connections, First Byte Time and Total Time. A user can also disable location from the right menu.
10. Site 24×7
Site24x7 is another amazing web testing tool used to check website speed. Just like Pingdom, it also gives you the option of choosing multiple testing locations from around the world.
The tool provides comprehensive easy-to-understand stats, divided into tables. The first two tables display the basic stats such as load time, number of requests, page speed score, and page size.
The following table is further divided into Response Time Summary, Web Page Summary, and PageSpeed Insights tabs.
Response Time Summary contains the breakdown of the various URLs and the time to load them. This also contains the information related to various assets like images, CSS and JS files.
Web Page Summary tab contains a graphical representation of requests and page size. Further down, it has the table that contains the list of domains and the number of requests and file sizes.
PageSpeed Insights gives you the idea of how well has your website performed during the test by assigning grades to various parameters such as Compression, Minification, Request Size and Image Optimization.
The list of 10 WordPress speed test tools is now concluded.
In this post, I covered the importance of page speed and how it directly affects the SERP ranking for your website. I also covered the ten most popular WordPress website testing tools which can help you optimize the website by giving valuable insights.
I highly recommend you test your website for performance frequently to highlight any performance related issues and to keep it smooth for the next visitor to your website.
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Ibad Ur Rehman is a WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways. He likes to explore latest open-source technologies and to interact with different communities. In his free time he likes to read, watch a series or fly his favorite Cessna 172SP in X Plane 10 flight simulator.