Retaining visitors and maintaining active internet traffic on your website is a complicated task. And while you will promote your website through various online marketing activities, it is all down the drain if your website is not loading fast enough and not performing well. Tracking website performance and figuring out how to improve them is an important part of your monthly hygiene checks. A user will hold high expectations from your website (and they should if they are to trust your brand and website), be it in terms of the design, interactive modules, or lightning-fast load times.
Broadly, website performance is related to three important aspects, viz. website speed, content complexity, and user behaviour. Each of these broad aspects involves several metrics which can be tracked and evaluated using respective tools.
You can either ask your web development team to regularly update you on these metrics or you can check them yourself.
Tracking Website Performance:
Believe it or not, users judge your professionalism from your website’s load speed. You cannot expect them to wait patiently while your website loads. Some of the best tools to measure website speed are WebPagetest, GTMetrix and Pingdom.
Here are some of the metrics you can track to measure the speed of your website:
1. Time to Title
This is the time taken from the moment a visitor requests your page until the title of the page appears in the browser tab. Finding the website’s title on the browser as soon as the user clicks into your website can make a credible first impression. It increases the chance that they will wait for the rest of the page to load.
2. Time to Start Render
The time taken to load content in the browser after the user’s request is your Time to Start Render. The sooner your viewer sees the content, the greater is your opportunity to engage them.
3. Time to Interact:
This is the time from the moment of the request until the user can scroll through the page and interact with your site using links or form fields. Page elements such as trackers or scripts may still be loading while the fields and links have appeared.
4. DNS Lookup Time
Your DNS provider may take some time to translate the domain name into the respective IP address. This is your DNS Lookup Time. Pingdom and WebPagetest quickly give you the DNS lookup times for each domain that your website must look up.
5. Connection Time
The amount of time between the instant when the user requests your website and the moment when a connection is established between your origin server and the user’s browser is the Connection Time.
It may be tricky to identify what is causing a delay in your Connection Time since it relies on a variety of factors. Huge server traffic, be it due to humans or bots, can cause spikes in connection time. Users in different geographic regions may experience greater delays. It is not enough, therefore, to monitor the connection time.
You can try out some tools for load testing, like JMeter, LoadStorm, etc. to simulate high server traffic. If you find the need to improve the connection times, you may need to shift to an upgraded server infrastructure. Another option is to try a caching server or CDN for offloading a portion of the assets.
6. Time to First Byte (TTFB)
After the connection is established, the time taken for the first byte of data from your server to reach the user’s browser is the Time to First Byte. Some minor alterations made in the code to correct the order in which information is sent to the browser can make a great difference when it comes to Time to First Byte.
One of the most important ways to achieve this is separating static content (which remains the same for every user) and dynamic content (which changes specific to different users). Doing this will ensure that most of the content appears in front of the user while they need to wait for a little for personalized content.
7. Time to Last Byte
Time to Last Byte marks the point when all the content to be retrieved from your website has been received by the user’s browser. Optimized database queries and standard quality of code pose an essential factor in this respect. Long TTLB may also be a result of the origin server having reached its capacity or its misconfiguration.
Tracking Website Performance:
All the speed metrics mentioned in the last section are also related to the complexity of content on your website. Make sure that you consider the following metrics besides the metrics of speed.
1. Third-Party Domains
Although most of the content on your website belongs in your own domain, you may have some third-party content. Elements such as social media widgets and embedded videos are hosted in external domains, and you do not have absolute control over their functionality.
The greater the number of third-party domains, the greater is the possibility of problems. Therefore, trust only domains with guaranteed flawless functionality to prevent outsiders from compromising your website’s performance.
2. Overall Asset Count
3. Overall Weight
The Overall Weight is the total content received, expressed in bytes, by the user on their browser. As you set out to evaluate website performance, you may find one asset slowing down everything else. That is why the relationship among assets is even more important than the weight of these assets. Moreover, as the size of your website grows with passing time and improved features, it is important to pause and look at the assets, removing the unnecessary ones.
Tracking Website Performance:
Once we are through with the technical part of this ordeal, let us take a peek into how users behave once they have entered your website.
1. Conversion Rate
The most important metric in tracking website performance is the conversion rate which is directly connected with your website’s purpose and output. Mark that we are talking about conversion rate and not conversion numbers because this is how you can know if users really act as you intend them to once they are on the website. You can very easily calculate the conversion rate by dividing the number of unique visitors by your conversion number.
A simple tool to track this important website performance evaluation metric over time is Google Analytics, allowing you to define an action/event as a successful conversion.
2. Top Pages
Getting to know which area of the website the users are the most interested in, can take you a long way in maintaining user retention. Keep in mind that the number of page views is not the only way to track Top Pages. Number of shares on social media play an even greater role.
A great tool for identifying the most popular pages on your website is the Behavior section of Google Analytics.
3. Bounce Rate
Users are visiting, but they somehow turn away and leave. This situation can be identified with a high bounce rate. When a user visits your page but does not thoroughly explore your website, Google marks this as a single-page session. Too many of these, and you may end up with degraded SEO.
Some simple factors that lie behind spiked bounce rates are bad design, slow load speed, and ineffective keywords. If you make some test changes, and the bounce rate decreases, you know you are moving in the right direction.
4. Error Rate
Last but not the least, the error rate is something that you absolutely must keep an eye on. This is simply the number of problem requests divided by the total number of requests made. It may be that a rising number of concurrent users is causing spiked error rates on your site. In that case, you can identify the problem by running different kinds of load tests.
An instance of this is noticing a rise in the error rate during a particular time period when concurrent users increase in number, such as a promotional event. This way, you can be prepared when a surge in web traffic is nearing. Understandably, not all errors can be resolved, but keeping track of the error rate keeps you alert of greater online mishaps in the coming future.
Tools for Tracking Website Performance
Website performance testing tools make life easier when it comes to tracking website performance. You can go ahead and try out the following tools for tracking different kinds of metrics.
Tools to Evaluate Client-Side Performance
These tools will review your load speeds, user engagement and content complexity on browsers in real time:
- Google PageSpeed Insights
Tools to Evaluate Server-Side Performance
These tools are meant to find out how your server is handling erratic situations such as high user concurrency, increased server traffic, etc.
- Apache Bench
- Bees with Machine Guns
In Conclusion… Optimize Website Performance for Great User Experience
The best way to benefit from the above tools is by setting your own standard for each metric. Research is undoubtedly useful when it comes to analyzing users’ online habits to gain an insight into their preferences and serve them better. Tracking website performance in the mean-time is very handy for your company to detect the need for necessary changes and improvements with time.
When you are looking to create a website for your business, make sure you discuss all these parameters with your web developer. You can hire freelance web developers by posting your requirement on InstaTaskers!