Google recently announced that it’s algorithm will factor in page load speed in addition to the other 200 or so ranking factors currently employed. This move, broadly welcomed by web developers and users, means it is now more important than ever to optimize the speed of your websites. Speed optimisation will not only keep Google happy, it will keep visitors engaged, increasing user retention and activity, as well as reducing your bandwidth and hosting costs. It’s a real win-win situation.
Using the tools explored below, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what’s slowing you down as well as get advice and recommendations on how to make the necessary improvements. Each tool is slightly different, but you need not use them in isolation. The best results come from utilizing a portfolio of speed optimisation tools to ensure you’ve got all the bases covered.
Still remember the Wordpress web optimization article? If you are a Wordpress user, i believe both these articles will bring benefit to your blog’s loading speed, as well as your page rank.
YSlow, which is a Firefox add-on integrated with Firebug (which you have to install first), judges web pages according to one of three pre-designed rule sets or a rule set of your own making. In addition to advising you on how to improve your web site’s speed it also summarizes each page’s components, displaying in-depth statistics.
This free tool couldn’t be easier to use. Simply enter a URL to diagnose and press ‘Submit’. Web Page Analyzer then calculates page size, composition and download time, providing you with a report. In this report, you’ll get various stats, including the size of each of your site’s components, download times at a range of connection rates (14.4k to T1 1.44Mbps), and recommendations for how to improve performance. It will tell you what your site is doing well as well as what your site is doing badly.
Like YSlow, Google’s Page Speed is a Firefox/Firebug add-on. Again, like YSlow, Page Speed performs a series of tests based on a set of best practices, this time divided into five categories: optimising caching, minimizing round-trip times, minimizing request size, minimizing payload size and optimising browser rendering. Once you’ve run the tests, you’ll get a set of scores for each page and advice on how to speed things up.
Site Performance is an intuitive tool that tells you how fast your pages load, how this speed has changed over time and how these loading times compare to other sites. It will then give you Google Page Speed suggestions for how to speed up your site for an improved user experience. Google gathers its performance information from your site’s users, specifically those that have installed the Google Toolbar and use its enhanced features. This means that if your site doesn’t get much traffic, the data you receive might be incomplete or lacking in validity.
A little different to the other tools in this list, SmartSprites lets you introduce and maintain CSS sprites in your designs. Using CSS sprites greatly reduces the number of HTTP requests made for image resources referenced by your site, improving your site’s performance. CSS sprites are particularly effective when lots of small images, like menu icons, are used. The Yahoo! homepage, for example, uses CSS sprites to speed things up.
AOL initially developed WebPagetest for use on its own sites, but it is now available for everyone to use online, for free. Once you’ve entered your URL, you’ll be presented with a waterfall-like graph of your page load performance as well as an optimisation checklist.
The advice given is rather hard to digest for all but the most experienced web developers: you’re given as a series of ticks, crosses and warning signs rather than the user-friendly sentences you’ll get from YSlow and Google Page Test. It does, however, allow you to test from various locations and with different browsers.