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How to Test Your WordPress Website Performance

Ever waited while a website took forever to pull up? You might select the Back button rather than wait for the content to load due to poor website performance. You have about 0.05 seconds to get your visitor’s attention, and they likely have never seen or purchased from you before, so a slow website can do serious damage to the first impression.

Developers must regularly test WordPress performance and be able to clearly and efficiently communicate strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities about the website’s infrastructure, function, size, speed, and many other factors.

Despite its proliferation, WordPress websites and digital marketing are still quite new to the business arena, and they’re still people who are skeptical about a website’s return on investment. 

However, given that 88% of online shoppers won’t return to a bad site, an organization’s website performance needs to be top-notch. Consumers and users have high expectations of brands.  Ignoring website performance can lead to bigger and more expensive problems down the road—like loss of customers, subscribers, visitors, users, and reputation. 

What Makes Your WordPress Site Slow?

A website will perform worse than usual for several reasons. While loading speeds will vary from site to site, there are a few factors that tend to slow most sites down, including:

  • Unnecessary/poorly coded plugins
  • Themes with poor coding
  • Images with large file sizes
  • Self-hosted videos that are long or use lots of graphics
  • Heavy or too much CSS (styles on the site) and JavaScript (interactions on the site)
  • Website hosting that’s not suitable for user needs
  • Bloated database (often the result of uninstalled plugins leaving some junk behind)

The Importance of Page Speed 

User experience (UX) is a method of web design that focuses on what the users need, their abilities and limitations, as well as what they value.  To provide the best user experience on a website, the page must load within three seconds. Most WordPress developers aim for under 2.5.

When you’re not annoyed by slow-loading pages, you tend to interact more with the content. More interaction leads to stronger connections, and stronger connections guide people further into the funnel.

Website owners often overlook page load speed because they don’t regularly test their websites on different networks, browsers, and devices.

Unfortunately, many people think that because the website is fast on their devices, it must be fast everywhere.  Therefore, they don’t want to spend time, money, or resources on even studying website performance.  This belief is critically false and can end up costing the business visitors and sales.

The Website Cache

Here’s why you can’t assume that the website works for everyone just because it works for you: 

When you visit a website for the first time, your computer sends a request to view the content for that page or post to the site’s host server.  That server analyzes the website link and request in fractions of a second, and then displays the massive amounts of code (in at least three coding languages) for the searcher to see.

After a website loads in the browser the first time, the browser on your local server remembers it.  That means the next time you visit that site it’ll pull up more quickly because it’s stored right there on your computer. This is true until you clear your cache or the website’s owner updates the page or post.   

Users will not experience your website the same way you do.  Never assume that because it’s good for you, it’s good for them.

Metrics

Slow page load speeds often lead to high bounce rates in website metrics.  That means people aren’t really interacting with your content. They enter that page and leave it soon after (that would be the average session time in analytics).   

Session length tell how much time visitors are spending on the pages or posts.  Heat maps show where people scroll, click, hover, and otherwise interact on the page. 

The faster the load speeds, the better the website performance overall.  The better the performance, the more likely people will interact with the website and utilize its resources. This makes the site ‘sticky’ and more likely to convert.

5 Speed Testing Tools for Website Performance 

There are lots of tools to measure page load time and site speed. Here are my top 5 suggestions:

1. PageSpeed Insights

Google’s tool looks at your site, reports on the performance on multiple devices, and suggests improvements.

With Core Web Vitals, you get a comprehensive picture of your data in a controlled lab environment, as well as in a real-world field environment, so you can stop any problems curtailing online website performance or SEO. 

2. GTmetrix

You can also check website speed with GTmetrix, a free tool. Because of the detailed website performance reports, the tool has become extremely popular within the WordPress web development community. The free account offers several customization options for the website performance testing.

Choose a test server from the seven locations that come with the account. The test browser can also be either Firefox or Chrome (desktop or mobile). Also available is a choice of internet connections, including 3G.

3. Pingdom Tools

With Pingdom, you get detailed information about your website performance, such as load time and page size, as well as an analysis of each page on your site. You can also track the status of load times by saving website performance history.

Pingdom offers both synthetic and real user monitoring, which gives a better sense of how your site is performing in the wild. Among the metrics Pingdom generates are a performance grade, a total page load time, the page size, and how many requests you receive. These metrics help developers find and focus on problem areas.

4. WebPageTest

In terms of functionality and the data it provides, WebPageTest is the most advanced WordPress speed test tool on this list, but it’s also tough for casual users to use since it’s more suited to developers.

Using the Advanced Setting area, you can set up a test with WebPageTest to:

  • Simulate lagging connections
  • Change the number of tests to run
  • Select the type of browser and device to use
  • Turn off JavaScript
  • Configure even more

5. YSlow Browser Plugin

This browser plugin tracks the performance of any site. While it does not provide actual load time, it does break down over 20 different website performance metrics. Use this in competitive research to see your site’s performance compared with that of competitors.

Speed Up WordPress by Looking Out for These 2 Things

To speed up WordPress so it performs at its optimum speed and efficiency, use the above speed tests and look out for these two things:

1. Where you take the test will impact your results

Page load times will vary depending on where and when your test is run. The default choice of test location should be as close to your audience as possible.  Also, try testing twice: once during peak-use hours at the audience’s location, and once at the lowest-use hours in the same place.

It’s also a good idea to use different locations across the globe to make your site load quickly for everyone.

Consider a content delivery network (CDN) if you notice your site is loading slowly in certain locations. If you’re focused more locally or regionally, you don’t need to worry too much about a CDN. 

2. Each tool has a different “load time”

Load time will vary.  There are a lot of factors that go into a website’s digital ranking in search engines.  There are two distinctions based on when a page is considered “loaded:”

  • Visitors can see all the content, even if there is still some background activity going on.
  • There is no background activity now that everything is 100% loaded.

Take a look at these techniques and try them out. To get help speeding up WordPress and improving website performance, get in touch.  I offer a free 30-minute discovery consult that focuses on your core needs and issues.  I’ll also provide you with a free website audit report that you can share with your team. 

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