Tools For Gathering Performance Optimization Data

Performance optimization is a crucial part of maximizing on-site conversions, but without data and analysis, optimization is a fruitless endeavor.

We all know that faster is better where load times are concerned. No one wants to sit twiddling their thumbs while pages load. For revenue generating sites, latency and lag can directly impact the bottom line. Conversion rates decline as load times increase, especially for eCommerce sites. Optimizing for performance is one of the most important tasks facing web masters, but before they optimize they need data.

Without real-world load time data, it’s impossible to figure out a baseline for optimization efforts and determine whether those efforts are having any significant impact. Moving a few JavaScript loads to the bottom of the page is all well and good, but it’s pointless if the scripts you are loading at the top of the page generate more lag than the ones you move.

Social media widgets are great for encouraging sharing, but if they also add seconds to your load time, users aren’t going to wait around to read the content, never mind share it.

With that in mind, I’d like to suggest four tools that you can use to get a clear idea of how quickly your pages load and where the bottlenecks lie. If you have concrete data about how long each part of your page takes to loads, you’ll be able to better focus optimization efforts.

PageSpeed Insights
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is the tool I turn to first when I want to know how my sites are performing. Google uses load speed as one of its ranking factors; all else being equal, faster loads leads to better performance in the SERPS. It’s a fair bet that the analysis tools Google exposes via PageSpeed Insights are related to the technology their algorithms use.

PageSpeed Insights will analyze a webpage and return a score with a detailed list of suggestions for improvements. Usefully, it provides tips for both mobile and desktop optimization.

YSlow
YSlow is Yahoo!’s equivalent of PageSpeed Insights, with the added benefit of being packaged as a browser extension that works with Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. It will analyze a page for 23 factors that affect load times and offer advice about how to improve performance.

Pingdom Website Speed Test
Pingdom Tools offers much the same scoring and analysis features as the previous suggestions, but I like it particularly because of its comprehensive waterfall visualization, which shows a detailed overview of when, in what order, and how long it takes for each component of a page to load.

It also allows users to choose the location from which the test is run, which is useful for webmasters who need an idea of the experience users around the world will get.

GTmetrix
Last, but certainly not least, is GTmetrix, which provides much the same information as the above services, with page speed grading and concrete suggestions for improvements.

Which of these tools you choose to use is entirely up to you, they all offer solid insights into performance optimizations that can make a significant difference to page load times and thus to your site’s users and bottom line.