A slow, clumsy website drags down business. Users don’t have much patience with slow pages, and they’ll give up on ones that take too long to load and display. Bad design and performance will also affect how search engines treat them, and fewer people will visit the site.
A website performance audit lets you discover your site’s weak points. Fixing them results in a more satisfactory user experience, better search engine ranking, and more engagement from users. You can conduct your own audit, using software tools, or bring in a professional team. These are some of the issues which an audit can help you with.
Unoptimized Pages Lose Visitors
Poor design makes a page unnecessarily slow. Several metrics of page speed are important.
- Time to first byte (TTFB) is the time between receiving a request and starting to send a response back. If it’s more than a small fraction of a second, it’s a serious drag on performance.
- Time to start rendering is how long it takes for content to start appearing in the browser. A well-organized page displays something as quickly as possible.
- Time to interact is the time until the user can use an interactive page. The page isn’t useful until the controls are visible and do what they’re supposed to.
- Total loading time measures how long it takes for the whole page to display in its final form.
All of these metrics should be as small as possible. Users like pages that they can quickly view, and search engines give them a better rank. An audit will identify slow-loading pages.
A Redesign Can Make Things Better — OR Worse
If you have just developed a newly designed website, you should run a performance audit on it as soon as possible. If the developer kept performance in mind, the results should be good; but some developers are more concerned with fancy features than good response. If the new site is slower than the old one, it will disappoint users. Promptly auditing the site’s performance gives you the best chance of getting the developer to fix poor performance.
Doing SEO Right Means More Traffic
SEO is a constantly changing art. The advice you got five years ago won’t serve you well today. Search engines are wise to keyword stuffing and link trading. Having good metadata has grown in importance, and having real content with quality outbound links boosts a site’s rank more than trickery does. Finding and correcting SEO deficiencies with an audit makes a huge difference in boosting website traffic.
HTML Needs to Be Lean
Some website generators create bloated HTML. Exporting HTML from applications such as Word is even worse. The issue isn’t just the number of bytes. The bigger problem is that overly complicated pages have quirky behavior which is hard to fix. They don’t work well with different browsers or screen sizes. Good HTML is clean and sticks to the basics of design.
Servers Shouldn’t Hold the Site Back
Fast page loading requires a server which is up to the task. Insufficient processing power, inadequate memory, and inefficient software are some of the reasons servers don’t keep up. SSL is almost a necessity today, but a slow SSL handshake can seriously impact the TTFB. An audit may reveal the need to upgrade to a better server.
The server needs to be configured correctly to deliver the best performance. Make sure that it uses compressed data whenever possible.
Good URLs Mean Better Traffic
URLs are more important than many people realize. A good URL contains keywords that help to describe the page it links to. It avoids using special characters that have to be turned into escape codes. One that uses parameters (values after the question mark) is problematic for both SEO and readability.
Broken links annoy users and give the impression that the site isn’t being maintained. A review should catch all links that don’t work, so you can correct, replace, or remove them.
Session Management Saves Users From Being Stranded
On sites where users have ongoing activity, like a shopping cart, session data keeps track of what they’ve done. The duration of a session should be long enough that they aren’t likely to lose their data, but short enough to keep security risks down. Users shouldn’t have to enter the same information over again just because they spend a couple of minutes thinking.
Users Don’t Like Error Pages
Whether it’s “404 Not Found” or “500 Internal Server Error,” seeing error pages annoys users and lowers their confidence in the site. An audit will catch errors from broken links and bad code. Eliminating these problems will make the users happier, not to mention catching potentially dangerous bugs in the server-side code.
Software Tools For Website Performance Audits
Many tools are available for auditing your own site. Each one has its own focus, so you should use more than one to get a complete picture of your site’s strengths and weaknesses. Some are free, others require a paid subscription.
All major browsers include tools for measuring performance, and add-ons are available to gather more information. Google Chrome’s DevTools, Firefox’s Network Monitor, and Safari’s Web Development Tools all let you get a good amount of information about the performance of any site you can access. Lighthouse is a free tool from Google, which you can run from Chrome or in standalone mode.
A number of online tools let you measure your site’s performance and get useful statistics. Most of them give you a choice of geographic locations for the client side. The best-known of the free ones is Pingdom, which analyzes your site’s performance and gives suggestions for improvement. Others, such as SE Ranking and DeepCrawl, offer their services on a subscription basis.
Some improvements are just a matter of cleaning up your pages, fixing broken links, removing unnecessary scripts and stylesheets, and correcting defective code. Others require improvements on the server side. Upgrading your hosting or adding a CDN may give your site the boost it needs.
Once you’ve got concrete information on your site’s performance, you know where to direct your efforts. With a few simple changes, you should be able to get more visits, faster page load times, fewer disruptions, and a better user experience. Good site performance means happy users, and that contributes to success in business.