Website Design & Development

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26
April 2020

Website Speed Test: Performance Checklist

Website Speed Test

Everyone wants their website to load fast, but it can be challenging. Whenever I build a new website I run through my website speed checklist before running a website speed test. I’ll add some standard WordPress tweaks, configure a few WordPress performance plugins, and tweak the server configuration where possible. If hosted on my managed web hosting servers I’ll know the server is already set up well for WordPress sites.

 

Checking Website Speed: My favourite free website speed test tools

My go to website speed test tools are Google PageSpeed Insights and WebPageTest.org. Sometimes I’ll also use Pingdom tools.

 

Website Speed Test Goals: What I aim for

I generally aim for a score on 80+ on Google PageSpeed and loading times under ~3 seconds when tested from Amazon EC2 Singapore with WebPageTest. There are usually some easy things to fix that bring most sites to this acceptable level.

But this isn’t good enough for everyone – speed gets more important for sites with higher traffic and SEO goals. Squeezing out extra performance beyond this point can be much more challenging – often needing to edit the website code, adjust images manually, or set up additional services such as CloudFlare or image hosting CDNs (content delivery networks).

 

My Website Speed Test Checklist for WordPress websites

  • Cache Setup & Configuration
    Using W3 Total Cache we can cache pages, database queries, encourage local browser caching, and has options for pre-loading the cache that will be customised for the needs of the site.
  • Minify CSS Stylesheets and JavaScript
    Using W3 Total Cache inbuilt functions to combine and minify the JavaScript & CSS files, different plugins depending on the specific needs of the website.
  • Image Optimisation
    Automatic image optimisation using plugins. I like WP Smush for this. Can be upgraded for more compression.
  • Apache/PHP/MySQL Database Optimisations
    Ensure all scripts work within the server limits and that the database is tidy and set up optimally.
  • .htaccess Speed Optimisations
    Setting cache-control headers and other little tweaks.
  • Image & Font Lazy Loading
    Ensure images and fonts are loaded asynchronously with the web page to improve perceived loading speed for improved user experience. Both WP Smush and W3 Total Cache have reliable image lazy load options. I use an extra code snippet to trigger async loading for Google Fonts.
  • Set up CloudFlare CDN (Content Delivery Network)
    Where appropriate I will configure CloudFlare’s free CDN to improve loading speeds worldwide.

 

Website speed optimisation is a long, ongoing process

It’s not always easy or quick, and sacrifices must be made if you want very high scores in the website speed test tools. External scripts such as CTA popups, live chat and even including Google’s own Analytics code reduces the PageSpeed score. It is generally not possible to achieve 100/100 in a real-world situation. There will be decisions to be made as high scores do require some functionality to be sacrificed for performance. This is not always desirable so a compromise will be made in order to maintain a strong user experience with an acceptable page load time.

For sites where performance is of vital importance I can spend hours – if not days – testing and making adjustments to make small optimisations. To check if it worked we have to let things run for a few days to check the real world speed test results once all caching has propagated. Website speed optimisation can be a long ongoing process and take significantly more resources than you’d expect. It can pay off with improved user experience and a SEO boost – a double whammy making both your visitors and Google happy.

After the initial performance optimisations are done, I typically approach website speed optimisation is an ongoing process that requires regular website speed tests and maintenance to ensure everything is performing correctly. This is included in my standard ongoing website management services, but if you are experiencing unusually high load times I can also perform one off optimisations which can make a big difference.

If you need help making your website faster just get in touch and let me know what website you’re having trouble with.

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