Let’s face it. One of the reasons you need to re-make your web site is that you’ve neglected it for too long. You let it get slow, buggy, and all together out of shape.
Why did you neglect it? It wasn’t because you wanted to have a web site that looks bad. Instead, you probably let yourself believe that everything was fine. After all, you don’t mind waiting for a page to load, or a stray broken link, or an occasional crash. Why should your customers care?
Of course, you know why. A website that looks bad turns people away. Even if your content is great, people won’t wait to get to it. And while your subjective viewpoint is helpful for establishing some baseline evaluation of your current site, you need to back it up with real numbers.
Measuring site performance isn’t too hard, but it’s important to use the right tools in the right way. Here are a few things you want to keep in mind when you’re measuring your site.
Use objective tools to measure your site speed.
If you’re new to thinking about web site speeds, you’ll be surprised by how many free tools are out there that will help you measure your site speed. Here are a few good options:
Web Page Test —This highly recommended, free, and open source service allows you to perform simple performance tests from a variety of locations and platforms.
Pingdom —Another popular site performance service, Pingdom also offers paid services, such as notification when your site is having problems.
Which Loads Faster —We’ll talk more about this later in the series, but you’re probably thinking about improving your website because your competitors have better ones. With Which Loads Faster you can run quick competitions between your websites and your competitors, so you’ll know that you’re the fastest in the field.
Know what your web site’s getting into.
If you’re a typical web developer, you probably spend more time than you’d like to admit downloading, experimenting with, and then abandoning web applications, plug-ins, and designs. While you might be able to get away with a messy server for a little while, if you wait too long you might find that your web pages are wasting precious milliseconds trying to access something it doesn’t really need.
In order to find out just what your site is doing sight unseen, you can use a web app like YSlow or even just your browser’s web inspector to see just what is going on behind the scenes. By determining how your site is structured, you’ll be able to make improvements down the road.
Think about scale.
If you’re running a small site, you just need to know some basic information about your site in order to improve it. But if you run a larger site, you might want to know more detailed information. The app Scout, for example, allows you to monitor your web site performance across several servers, so you can see if an improvement you make to one server is worth deploying everywhere. Or, if you want to measure how your site will hold up under a swam of traffic, Loadstorm can simulate high user traffic, so you can war game out scenarios before you launch your new site.
While we’re accustomed to thinking about all things tech getting better and better over time, web site speed hasn’t increased that much over the past few years. Web sites are more dynamic and complicated than ever, and many of your customers and visitors are accessing your site from Internet connections that are slower than they should be. For these reasons, it’s critical to get accurate measurements of your site speed and performance, whether your site gets a few hundred or thousands of visitors a day.
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Photo by Bryson-Lewis Family