July 14, 2017

Cutting Through The Noise Of PageSpeed Insights & Web Page Speed Tests

It seems straightforward, Your website is loading slowly, you punch up one of a dozens of web page speed tests, or Google’s very own PageSpeed Insights, a bar flashes across the screen with promise of answering your question and identifying your sticking point and Confusion and complexity....

How on earth do you sort these results, recommendations, to find valuable action items through a list of red alerts that may be meaningless.

Don’t Use This: Google’s Page Speed Insights.

In theory it's a great idea, I punch in my site, and you give me my score out of 100 with 100 being “perfect”.

While many of the recommendations themselves are often sensible, more likely than not they are far from the root of your slow page loads. Instead you will likely be scolded for issues found on essential elements hosted by Google Fonts, Google Maps, and Google Analytics!

We have seen slow as molasses websites get 75+, we have seen sites that load in less than half a second get scores of 30/100, we have seen companies implement all suggestions possible and their score inexplicably went down as found items decreased. Most telling, send it to android.com or similar and see that they also do not practice what they preach.

Even when it does identify things under your control it will scold you for items that weren't even worth looking at, suggestions for complex actions required to save hundreds of bytes, to a handful of Kilobytes.

For some perspective for those who didn’t grow up using floppy disks, This image is 200 Bytes. Absolutely nothing to worry about and silly they would mention it.

Our goal should be to save bandwidth in meaningful ways allowing our sites to be beautiful and interactive, while loading fast on 4G. Things less than 10 kilobytes are rounding issues that are not worth getting bogged down in until every last low hanging fruit is gone.

In short, don’t let google make you stress, be happy.

Use This https://tools.pingdom.com/

This tool gives you sensible metrics for page speed.

Load time in milliseconds is key, isn’t the most important part of page speed the speed at which the page loads?

You should try to shoot for as low as possible here. There are many interesting reads on how page speed impacts user engagement, conversions and drop off rates. With many eye catching headlines like “How One Second Could Cost Amazon $1.6 Billion In Sales” dating back nearly a decade.

While the exact metrics and results may change, everyone knows faster is better. We should focus on making your website as snappy as possible while still delivering your content and message. .5-3 seconds is common, but our attention spans are shrinking as fast as our expectations are growing.

Don’t let how many sites you are faster than stroke your ego, people testing their page speed are likely in the doghouse as well.

Page size is another crucial factor directly related to Load Time.

While many urban home and office connections have come a long ways in a decade allowing us to enjoy binge watching 4K Netflix at home (And jobs) faster than ever. Many of your users will still be on slow rural ISP connections. Slow 3G connections that leave you frustrated and annoyed. And slow workplaces and VPNs trying and failing to block Spotify as their network grinds to a crawl. We need to keep these people in mind when we add weight to our web designs.

On these connections a larger 1.5MB website could take over a minute to load! I don’t know about you but when a funny gif is longer than 10 seconds I start getting antsy.

Chameleon Can't Enough Of The Tap
Finally the number of requests. This is a total sum of all HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and images your site requests, typically this is not an issue and becoming less and less so as browsers get better at handling dozens of requests at once.

It can become an issue if you try to include too many advertising trackers, social media widgets and pixels, google maps, chat widgets, and whatnot.

A quick load of the Wall Street Journal and their nearly 400 requests and 4.9MB of data reveals why so many users turn to Ad-Blocking tools.

Identifying the causes…

Images are the cornerstone of a good impactful website, but at the same time are often the culprit when we are looking at websites.
Sorting your elements by filesize may reveal large PNGs that could better be compressed jpegs, Oversized images that need compression, and other targets.

Looking at the “Content Size by Domain” category may reveal third party scripts that caused bloat which may need to be audited and for removal or set to load on a delay.

In the end by ignoring meaningless recomendations, and focusing on the elements causing the majority of your page size and slowdown, we can address the core problem and effect change without wasting time and effort.