What’s the big deal about Page Load Speed?

Snail showing slow page speed

There is a lot of buzz on the internet about website Page Load Speed. In this post, I will give you a rundown on what it is, how to check your website page load speed, and why it’s important that it loads FAST!

What is Page Load Speed?

slow as a snail page speed load
Do you remember those horrible days of dial-up?

Page load speed is the amount of time it takes for a page to fully load on your screen, beginning when you click on a page link or type in a domain address, and ending when the page is completely loaded in your browser. It’s measured in seconds. The faster your website loads, the better the user experience is for your clients. It is so frustrating when you hit enter and then have to wait… and wait… and wait! Nobody wants to wait, we are an impatient species and want everything yesterday (or sooner!). Do you remember those horrible days of dial-up? You would enter your search, hit enter, make a snack, go for a walk, watch some TV before the page loaded.

Factors determining Page download speed

The speed at which a page loads depends on several factors:

  • First, the hosting server; shared hosting is affordable but it can also slow down the speed your website loads since your website ‘shares’ resources with other websites.
  • Second, the internet download speed, the faster the speed, the faster the page loads. (In rural Ontario the average download speed is 5 to 10 mbps (megabits per second)).
  • And third, the website design. A dynamic, interactive website (think shopping) will take longer to load than a static website with only content and data.
  • Other factors include user location, device, and browser type.

The same web page can easily have different page load times in different browsers, on different platforms (e.g. mobile vs. desktop), and using different server locations. If someone located in Ontario visits your website, which is hosted on a server in the U.S., there is a slight delay as the data has to travel across the internet to the device.

How to test your page load speed

There are 2 tools I use to test page load speed and both are FREE!

Google Page Speed Insights:

Click https://pagespeed.web.dev and enter your URL in the text box and hit Analyze. It takes about a minute to run and display a detailed report.

page load speed performance on Google Insights

It’s great to have a high score on desktop, but it’s the rating on mobile that really counts. This rating is used as a small part of the Google Search Algorithm. Google measures the page load speed on mobile devices, rather than laptops because people are always searching on their phones.

Google Page speed metrics

Scroll down the page to see the detailed metrics:

Page load Speed Insights Metrics for desktop

Google encourages pages to load in less than 4 seconds. I am going to say it, this is very difficult to achieve! Websites are designed to use large images and interaction (videos, gif files) to keep users attention. Websites now need to be designed with load speed in mind; images need to be compressed, lightweight themes need to be used instead of resource-heavy themes and plugins. Or simply designed for mobile screens, and modified to look good on desktops instead of the other way around.

Below the metrics section, specific details are listed stating what is slowing down your website. These details will give you (or rather me) insights into how to improve this speed.

These metrics will identify images that need to be compressed or javascript that can be run after the page is loaded. The metrics will also show which resources are slowing down the page. I actually find it interesting that some of the resources that slow the site speed are Google tools (Recaptcha and fonts).

I have only touched the tip of the iceberg on Google Page Speed Insights!

If you want to learn more about Page Speed Insights, visit About Page Speed Insights or Analyze and Optimize your website with Page Speed Tools.

GT Metrix

How fast does your website load? Find out with GT Metrix!

GT Metrix website to test page load speed

GT Metrix is set up the same way as Google Page Speed Insights. Enter your domain name and hit Test your site button. It takes less than a minute for the report to generate with your page speed results. My page ranks better in GTmetrix than Google Page Speed Insights, I got an A!!!

page load speed performance on gt matrix

Page Load Speed Metrics Explained

Wondering what those Metrics mean?

First Contentful Paint or FCP

How quickly content like text or images are painted onto your page. A good user experience is 0.9s or less.

Time to Interactive or TTI

How long it takes for your page to become fully interactive. A good user experience is 2.5s or less.

Speed Index

How quickly the contents of your page are visibly populated. A good user experience is 1.3s or less.

Total Blocking Time

How much time is blocked by scripts during your page loading process. A good user experience is 150ms or less.

Largest Contentful Paint or LCP

Largest Contentful Paint is the time it takes for the largest element of content (e.g. a large banner image) to be painted on your page. A good user experience is 1.2s or less.

Cumulative Layout Shift or CLS

How much your page’s layout shifts as it loads. A good user experience is a score of 0.1 or less

GT Metrics my website performance

I’m thrilled to see that my home page is doing well!

How to speed up your page load speed

Here is a summary of what can be done to speed up your web pages:

Choose a great hosting provider

Use a reputable hosting company, one that provides CDNs (Content Delivery Networks). A CDN takes a copy of your data (photos, static information) and stores it on servers around the globe. When a user clicks your page, the static information will be pulled from the closest CDN, therefore allowing your page to load faster. You can also choose a hosting company that has a server closer to home. Make sure to host your website on a fast server.

Compress your images

Don’t upload full-sized images that are 5mb in size. Compress your images beforehand using Adobe Photoshop or another online compression tool or install a WordPress plugin that compresses your images for you (Smush plugin or WP Optimize).

Optimize your website

Use a lightweight theme such as Astra, or one that includes Performance Tools that will help improve the page load speed. Plugins can be installed that increase the speed by compressing your images (Smush plugin), or optimizing your files (WP Optimize).

One final note, you most likely will get different results from Google Page Speed Insights and GT Metrix. Here is a great article explaining the differences.

Go for a test run!

So, try this for yourself. Use one of the tools listed above, either Google Page Speed Insights or GT Metrix and see how your website is doing. If you have any concerns, email me. I can help improve your page load speed.