Test Web Page Download Speed

The speed at which your web page(s) load has always played a part in the success of a website or blog. If your website or blog loads slowly, the visitor will just leave. Web surfing people are very impatient. It doesn’t matter how they are accessing your site, if it’s slow you are not going to make that sale, have a reader added to your blog, have the visitor spread the word for you by word of mouth or get bookmarked on any of the social networking sites.

Now, because Google announced that web page download speed plays a part in your positioning in the search results everyone is on the band wagon to improve the download speed of websites and blogs. Don’t figure. It takes Google to watch something for people to pay attention they should have been doing in the first place.

You may have heard that here at Google we’re obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.

Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don’t just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that’s why we’ve decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.

Using site speed in web search ranking – Official Google Webmaster Central Blog Friday, April 09, 2010

How to Test Web Page Download Speed?

There are various ways to test the download speed of your pages. Here are a few:

Web Page Analyzer

This site has been around since 2002. That just shows you that web page download speed was important before Google decided to make it part of the factors they use.

You can enter your url in the box provided or copy and paste your (X)HTML coding in the larger box. Click Submit Query and the program begins analysis of the page. It might take a while, depending on how much code it has to process and of course, how slow your page loads.

This site was created to accompany the author’s book he wrote years ago. He has a new one, Website Optimization: Speed, Search Engine & Conversion Rate Secrets, that you should consider adding to your library.

Google’s Page Speed

If you have a Webmaster Tools account with Google, down at the bottom of the left menu (Labs > Site Performance) is the Site Performance link. It will show you an approximation of the download speed your site has and also notes which pages it found slow with suggested solutions. For a more detailed analysis, even Google suggests you use their Page Speed for Firefox.

Google also has Page Speed available for download. You need Firefox and Firebug addon to use it. You have Firefox installed already, right? (You should for cross-browser compatibility testing.)

With Page Speed installed, open Firefox, start Firebug then run Page Speed. The results are pretty quick.

Like the online version, you get a list of what needs fixing but this time it is more detailed.

The Page Speed official documentation is available if you really want to study how this works and see explanations of the details.

YSlow

Yahoo! has YSlow for web page download testing. It also requires Firefox and Firebug to run.

Like Page Speed, once you install YSlow, go to the page you want to test and run the test you get results complete with what needs to be fixed.

Out of the three download speed testing programs mentioned above, Web Page Analysis is probably the easiest to understand for a non web designer.

Web Page Download Improvement Tips

Before you even run the tests above, there are somethings you can look at before actually running the tests:

  • Web Page File Size

    A good web page file size is 30k. A litte more would be ok but if your web page file size is over 40k you really need to have a look at what can be removed and/or improved upon.

  • Nested Tables

    Tables in general slow down the download speed of a page because the browser has to stop and process all the coding for the table. And in nested tables (tables within tables) and that process is slowed down even more.

    If your web page coding is using nested tables for manipulate the placement of the page elements, then remove these and use CSS (Cascading Stylesheets) instead. You could save a bunch of file size.

  • Image File Size

    Quite often people use images as they received them or straight out of the camera. You need to resize the images before uploading the website. If you use the oversized image and force it to the right size using coding, the browser still downloads the original image.

  • Combine CSS and Javascript Files

    If you see links in the head of your web page coding to a number of CSS files and/or Javascript files you can reduce the download speed of the page by combining all the CSS together and then all the Javascript together in another file.

    Internal CSS and Javascript coding in the head section of the web page or in the body of the page should be moved to the external CSS and Javascript files also. This also makes things easier to maintain.

  • Third Party Content

    These days there are lots of third party stats, features and ad networks that can be added to your site, particularly blogs. Unless the background coding is done in such a way that these are loaded at the end of the web page coding being processed, they slow down or even hang your web page if not working.

Some Things to Understand About Web Page Download Speed

Even if you have improved on all the above, run the tests and tweaked the heck out of your site there are still a couple of things to understand.

Your web server plays a part in how fast your web page downloads. If the web server is crowded with lots of sites and they are all really active, this slows down the web server’s performance. Paying a higher price for better web hosting is something to consider if this is a problem.

Dynamic websites (sites that include programming and databases, like ecommerce sites and blogs) are affected by the quality of the programming and database optimization used. A poorly programmed page or poorly optimized databse takes time to process the information requested before sending it back to the browser.

Your visitor’s location is really not a valid excuse for slow download speed. If your site is optimized properly it shouldn’t matter if they are in Timbuktu or next door to you. Optimize the site for the slowest internet connection your visitors have.

One other thing, if you have not set up your browser to clear it’s cache (history) when closed things like images and external CSS files are stored on your computer. The next time you visit the web page, the browser fetches these from the copy on your computer, not the website. This of course makes it appear that the site is loading fast when it’s not. Learn to clear your browser cache so you see the site like a new visitor.

Web page download speed will be important whether a ranking factor for your site or not. People don’t have the patience to wait for your site to load. With mobile devices becoming more common than the traditional desktop computer or laptop download speed is crucial as these people are paying for data plans based on how much data they download.

Test your web page download speed now and improve your overall search engine optimization program.

Further Reading on Web Page Download Speed


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10 Responses to Test Web Page Download Speed

  1. Tesa Says:

    One of the things that has worked really well for me is to use the W3C Total Cache for WordPress.

    There is a learning curve to setting it up. But once you figure it out, it becomes a snap to install on all of your WordPress sites.

  2. Felipe Sparks Says:

    The tip on fonts is a great one. Never thought that MAC and PC used different default fonts. Thanks for that one!

  3. Clemence French Says:

    Showing the error for all my downloads that i have made with internet. But i don’t know why. Now you tell me how to simply detect the downloading speed in our sites. And i checked my site as you say the file size,image,third party contents. It really works. Some of the problems are really works with Yslow. You shared with a great info thanks a lot for this.

  4. Stefan Says:

    Big misleading mistake: You say: “Internal CSS and Javascript coding in the head section of the web page or in the body of the page should be moved to the external CSS and Javascript files also. This also makes things easier to maintain.”

    This is only true in terms of making maintenance easier. However using external css and javascript instead of internally in the head of the page markedly INCREASES load times because of time needed for the extra requests for the external files.

  5. Web Page Mistakes Says:

    When you use external files the browser caches the files locally on the user’s machine. This way, when they visit the next page on your site the browser does not have to download the external files again where as if you use internal and inline CSS and Javascript your coding is processed by the browser again and again with each page the visitor visits.

    A web browser stores objects – for example, images, HTML documents, style sheets – downloaded over the network in a special area called the browser cache. The way the cache works is simple: when the user navigates to a page, the web browser will first check if the browser cache already contains the content for that page. If the content is still fresh in the cache, another download is unnecessary.

    Save Some Cash: Optimize Your Browser Cache

    If the user does not clear their browser cache and you have not set the expiry of these files to a time prior to their return visit the browser “fetches” these external files from the user’s browser cache.

    Generally a site with data that is updated regularly needs to have an expiry of certain areas of their pages so the data is refreshed on the next visit.

Test Web Page Download Speed Was Mentioned Here:

  1. Should I worry about my website's speed?
  2. How to Maintain a Website
  3. Website Testing
  4. Page Speed - Check Your Page With Google
  5. Do You Really Need All Those Plugins?

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