How to use analytics to test your website's loading speed

One of the most crucial elements to an effective website is ensuring loads quickly for your visitors. For better or worse, we live in an impatient world where your site’s visitors might navigate elsewhere if your site hasn’t loaded in just a few seconds. With that in mind, how can you test your site’s loading speed and determine what is slowing it down?

Testing your website’s speed

Testing your website’s speed seems like a simple task — just load it in your browser and see how long it takes, right? The problem is that not all connections are created equal. Depending on where your site is hosted, how far away that host is from your visitor’s computer, how fast your visitor’s internet connection speed is, and even the browser your visitor uses, loading times can vary wildly. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to use a dedicated testing site to produce consistent results.

At MPWR Design, we use GTMetrix to test site loading speeds. GTMetrix uses two tests — Google’s PageSpeed test and Yahoo!’s YSlow test — to analyze your site. It then provides you with a score of 0% to 100% from each test, shows you some details on your page loading time, and offers specific suggestions from each test on how to improve your loading times.

What is causing your site to load slowly?

GTMetrix shows you your site’s fully loaded time, total page size, and number of requests needed to load your content. These results — taken from MPWR Design’s home page — display green arrows to show better-than-average results for each metric.

Underneath Page Details on the screen that shows your results, you’ll each of the three metrics has an arrow next to it. A green up arrow indicates your site is performing better than average for that metric, and a red down arrow indicates that your site it worse than average. If you hover your mouse over the arrows, you’ll see the average score for each — at the time of writing, 6.6 seconds, 2.86 MB, and 84 requests are average.

If you see a red down arrow for any of these three metrics, you’ll want to figure out why your site is loading more slowly than average. Starting from the right, the number of requests indicates the number of times a browser has to contact your server to load all of the content on your page. If the number is extremely high, you might have a too many files (images, etc.) in your page itself, or you might have plugins that are loading quite a few files and slowing your load time down.

If your total page size is higher than average, your site is loading slowly because of some big files on the page. If the page size and requests have green up arrows but your fully loaded time is still longer than average, your hosting company’s loading speed might be the source of the problem.

The suggestions below the scores can also be helpful. The PageSpeed and YSlow tabs each have recommendations to help your site load faster. They are ranked in order of importance, so making changes to even the first few items alone can drastically improve your page loading time.

GTMetrix is an incredibly valuable tool for analyzing your site. Bookmark it and check it often!