Improved site speed tools

You must think about the loading speed of your site. Server costs and user satisfaction are only two of the many reasons.

Image of a speed dial and the words Website Speed

Website Tools for Developing

Below are some tools that I find useful to getting sites to load in under a minute. It can be done, even with a WordPress site on shared hosting. But you will have to optimize the hell out of the site and put a workflow in place for upkeep.

Website Utility checking

Image showing number of HTTP requests for page using tool
The HTTP Requests Checker tool is effective for really isolating exactly how many requests your page is making.

This is a page was heavily optimized, but the client wanted social sharing and Google Adsense which added over 40 requests to the page. 
Time to First Byte is an excellent tool to determine if you are having trouble with your DNS handshake – the time it takes for the server to be found and BEFORE your page is even called.

This very often tells you that paying for a premium DNS service is better.

First, these are “checkers”, tools to check various aspects of the domain, the hosting environment and the website itself:

  • HTTP Requests Checker
    • Use this to check how many HTTP requests your site is making to fully load the page being tested. Unfortunately, it does not list out each request but is good to verify against other checks.
  • Check TTFB – or Time to First Byte
    • This has a lot to do with the DNS set-up and hosting environment itself. Including whether your CDN is set-up properly. It breaks down a few categories that may make you want to spend a few extra dollars for proper hosting and Premium DNS services.
    • This is a good blog post about all this TTFB and Page Load Times.
    • An alternative resource called bytecheck.com.
  • Rick Link Preview – Do this early in the theming (choosing or developing one)
    • You can waste a lot of time on a poorly coded “base” theme (or decided to go with an awesome base theme instead of coding from scratch) as this is important for conversions from the search engines.
  • Check to see if you have gzip compression at the server level.
    • If you don’t have gzip, you will have to google how to set it up.
A tool for checking rich snippets
This is not a tool for checking speed, per se, but in my workflow and at the beginning of the theming process – I check the rich snippets and make sure they are working correctly.

If you’re building on top of an existing theme, using a child theme, for example, it is very important to check this.  
Cloudinary’s image tool. It’s a free tool. The thing to pay attention for in any tool is false positives.

In this example, and all these images, the images have all been run through several optimizers.

There are many specialty tools, and it will serve you to keep bookmarks of the different tools you can find.  You never know when you have to debug something and only that particular tool comes to the rescue.

Various Web Site Speed Checking sites

Below are various sites I use to increase site speed and to check the site  and load time of the project I am developing. This is in order of usefulness:

  • GTmetrix is the most useful to me, in general.
  • Webpagetest is also very useful and excellent in debugging image loading.
  • Pingdom has been the test I have consistently used over many years due to its accuracy versus the real world.
  • Lighthouse by Google is basically useless. You have to run it in your browser. It’s useless as it provides no added benefits and ignores Google Analytics and Google Adwords slow causing scripts so if you only use this, you have a bad impression. Likewise, it doesn’t provide any additional tools. I imagine if you’re building a PWA this might be helpful as it has a grading system.
  • Cloudinary image checker. Cloudinary provides a free resource to check the website and see the improvements you can make.

Other tools to help with files and so on

WordPress plugins that help

These plugins below are effective when used together, and make noticeable and reliable improvements.

  • Auto Cloudinary – rather than use the official Cloudinary plugin, I found this plugin to do the job well, without taking over your entire back admin of your WordPress website. Activate and set up only after your images have already been optimized and you have Octify (below) finished with it’s job.
  • Octify Image Compression – is a plugin that gives you a certain amount of images to compress. You get about 250 images which you can compress and then it’s like $3 per month for 5000 images. 
  • Autooptimize – does a few things very well.  Activate and run this before you use a caching plugin. And deactivate both this and the caching plugin whenever you make changes to your theme or files (not posts) or plugins.  Do this first, then activate your caching plugin.
  • WP Super Cache – is the Automattic caching plugin and it works very well.   Again, you activate this after any concatenation or using Autooptimize.

Summary

Experience alone will teach you how to start from the beginning of your project as you think through each aspect piece by piece in consideration of loading speed.

I hope these tools above help remove some of the trial and error you will still go through, and in doing so, get you to serve your sites faster and consequently earn more conversions and happy users.

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