It’s an all-to-common scenario: a new user to WordPress builds their site, goes live and starts blogging or selling or raising funds without giving much thought into how their site’s performing. Are visitors getting a good user experience? Are your pages loading quickly? Are they rendering correctly across mobile platforms? Are you losing customers because your server response is slow? Having images that are too large, a poorly coded theme, a lousy hosting service and far too many plugins are all things that can slow down your site considerably and have visitors hitting the “back” button immediately.
It should come as no great surprise that pages that receive the most traffic and attention are those that provide great user experience. Indeed, responsive sites that provide stellar visits—especially in the e-commerce industry—are proven to have better engagement, more conversion rates and, very importantly, better search engine rankings.
It’s vital, therefore, that any and every website owner and administrator do periodic tests on their site to gauge speed and performance and to ensure that it’s operating at its most efficient and desirable level. And thankfully there are some great tools for doing just that. Here are five worth investigating.
Google PageSpeed Insights
Leave it to Google to come up with the industry-leading site testing app. PageSpeed Insights not only monitors your site’s speed and performance, it does so across multiple devices. This is important because, while you site may render quickly on a desktop computer, it’s important it also does so on smartphones, tablets etc. It’s easy to use and intuitive and a great option for beginners wanting to test out their new site.
Not only does GTmetrix speed test your site, it compiles a complete report from which it generates tips and ideas for improving performance. Loaded with analysis tools, it also contains a video feature that lets you see exactly what problems exist that are making your site sluggish and quick tips for correcting any issues.
By providing a “grade” breakdown of your site’s performance, WebPagetest makes understanding your page’s speed issues easy to understand. It’s also one of the only tools of its kind that gives you the option of testing your site from various platforms all over the world, an important feature if you have lots of users and clients from other countries and want to be sure that all is working well not just on domestic servers but on those overseas as well.
YSlow Browser Plugin
This plugin allows you track the performance of any site you’re currently visiting, and while it doesn’t report actual load times it does compile a list of more than 20 different performance “cues.” This is a great choice if you are in a niche market and need to track how your site compares with your competitors.
Another freebie, Pingdom gives users site-wide performance information including how long it takes a page to load, the size of pages and more. It also analyzes each and every page on a site and archives the performance history so users can chart their site speed over time and see if changes and tweaks make a difference.
Once you’ve utilized one of these tools to test your site it’s time to explore options for increasing speed and performance. To begin, check your website server and determine if you’re on a shared host system or a dedicated service. The latter will absolutely give your better speed and performance results. You should also look at ditching poorly performing and low quality plugins that could be slowing down load times (use P3 Plugin Profiler to see which plugins are affecting your site.) And use a tool to compress high-quality images in your Media Library (large images also slow down page load times); make sure you’re using a well-rated theme; and use a caching plugin that reduces the number of requests your site needs to make to a database, which helps your site cope with large amounts of user traffic.