I’ve pushed and followed the “performance is important” mantra for years. Even back in 2000 while working for Time Inc. I set aside quite a bit of my time for both front-end and server side code performance. Websites were measured in Kilobytes and when you hit the dreaded MB size you were put on a diet. I’ve seen this cycle hit multiple times in our industry. There are some great trends you can see on the HTTP Archive site.
I kept most of my knowledge/research relatively private within my companies. I’m pretty sure my first open talk on “Theming for Performance” wasn’t until 2013, while I had invested in training, tools and employees over the year. I am really excited to share a bit more this weekend at WordCamp Albuquerque (April 30, 2016) on a panel. I decided to put together my notes and recommendations below, I’m keeping this list primarily in the free-cheap range:
Performance Monitoring Tools
The following are monitoring tools that can be set up an continuously run to send alerts or simple reports of performance and availability of our site. The also provide historical data for times when you did not realize a change was put in place.
Jetpack Monitor will keep tabs on your site, and alert you the moment that downtime is detected. Once activated, one of our servers will start checking your site every five minutes. If it looks like something’s gone awry, we’ll fire off an email notification to the WordPress.com account that Jetpack is connected under.
New Relic is a Software Analytics company that makes sense of billions of metrics across millions of apps. We help the people who build modern software understand the stories their data is trying to tell them.
Pingdom makes it easy for you to monitor the uptime and performance of your website or web application
Nagios Core is an Open Source monitoring engine that started a revolution in Open Source IT management. Lightweight, with a focused scope, and multiple APIs for extending core functionality.
Performance Testing Tools
While these can be set up for automated tests, each provides an easy to use interface for typing in your domain / page url and get results right away.
Sitespeed.io is an open source tool that helps you analyze your website speed and performance based on performance best practices and timing metrics. It collects data from multiple pages on your website, analyzes them using the rules and outputs the result as HTML or send the metrics to Graphite.
WebPagetest is a tool that was originally developed by AOL for use internally and was open-sourced in 2008 under a BSD license. The platform is under active development on GitHub and is also packaged up periodically and available for download if you would like to run your own instance.
YSlow grades web page based on one of three predefined ruleset or a user-defined ruleset. It offers suggestions for improving the page’s performance, summarizes the page’s components, displays statistics about the page and provides tools for performance analysis, including Smush.it™ and JSLint.
Page Speed Insights
Page Speed Insights, formerly Google PageSpeed, measures the performance of a page for mobile devices and desktop devices. It fetches the url twice, once with a mobile user-agent, and once with a desktop-user agent.
GTmetrix gives you insight on how well your site loads and provides actionable recommendations on how to optimize it.
Ndevr started a GitHub project for monitoring your own sites without a dependency paying for a 3rd party hosted solution. This is still requires a high amount of internal resources to maintain and build on.
SpellChkr (<- yes, on purpose)
I’m sure you’ll find a few grammar issues within our site, but I hope you’ll find few to no spelling mistakes. Next to slow sites, I’ve read many articles on people’s trust fading when people don’t take the time to spell check their site.
Respelt is a free online spell checker with a powerful feature set. It helps you spell check your documents, web pages and even RSS feeds.
Content Delivery Networks
One of the quickest, least expensive ways to improving the site performance and reliability is to add a CDN to your site. This puts a layer between wherever you host your site and the end user, generally physically closer to them as well.
Photon is an image acceleration and editing service for sites hosted on WordPress.com or on Jetpack-connected WordPress sites. That means less load on your host and faster images for your readers.
Cloudflare, Fastly and MaxCDN
CloudFlare, Fastly and MaxCDN are from free to relatively expensive depending on the services you are looking for. Each provides the layer of protection and performance improvements, at a minimum going with one of their free options is highly recommended.
While tools are important, and following the right people is key these things change constantly. While I follow and read from far more sources, I would recommend starting with these and building your list on your own.
HTTP Archive (stats)