The Performance Beacon

The web performance, analytics, and optimization blog

Best practices for website performance testing and monitoring

These days, website performance can make or break an end user’s experience. There are so many resources currently available that if one site cannot deliver and meet the user’s expectations, he or she will simply find another platform that can. People today don’t waste their time with slowly loading pages or content. For this reason, testing and monitoring the performance of a brand’s website is absolutely critical.

Thankfully, there are several performance testing best practices that companies can leverage to ensure that the proper performance tests and monitoring processes are in place and are being adhered to. Consider the following with website performance testing and monitoring:

Testing page load times

One of the most important performance benchmarks for any website is how quickly page content is fully displayed to users. There are several tips businesses can utilize to streamline page load time tests, including planning a strategy ahead of time. According to eCommerce Diligence’s checklist, this strategy should include not only the page load times themselves, but the capacity of the website. In this way, the brand gets a full understanding of how its website performs even during peak usage periods. A page that loads quickly at full website capacity is a favorable result for the company as well as its end users.

“One of the most important performance benchmarks for any website is how quickly page content is fully displayed to users.”

“Servers can respond differently when under low or high load,” eCommerce Diligence noted. “Simply testing page load times under minimal load will miss the impact that traffic causes. In addition to low traffic situations, test each page while under heavy load (maybe 80 percent capacity).”

With page load time tests, engineers should consider how the website responds under low usage loads, as well  as high capacity traffic.

Within the page load time test strategy, decision-makers must define a benchmark to signify acceptable page load time to gauge how well their website performs. For instance, a KISSmetrics study showed that:

  • 16 percent of users will only wait one to five seconds for a page to load
  • 30 percent will wait six to 10 seconds
  • 16 percent will wait 11 to 15 seconds
  • 3 percent will wait less than one second for pages to load

Keeping this in mind can help managers determine an acceptable page load time against which they can judge the performance of their website.

Factor in locational latency, actual Web traffic

When gauging page load times, testers must also factor in the latency that impacts customers in specific locations. For example, if a brand is based in Chicago, engineers should determine how much latency the area sees by testing how long it takes pages to load there compared with another geographic area, eCommerce Diligence suggested.

In addition, tests should always be carried out under the most realistic conditions possible. This means using actual Web traffic as the foundation for page load tests.

“Once you know the total traffic and percentages of each page type request, you will be able to create realistic test cases to accurately test against the current load and peak load times,” eCommerce Diligence noted.

Prioritize page optimization

Once load and other performance tests have been completed, the process of optimization can begin. However, project administrators should prioritize page optimization so that the slowest pages that have the biggest impact on end users are taken care of first.

“If you have a page that is rarely used (i.e., less than 0.5 percent of the traffic), then it may not make sense to optimize it,” eCommerce Diligence pointed out. “However, if it is your homepage or your product pages where each may contribute 20 percent of the traffic, then optimize them first.”

Monitoring, alerts and continual improvements

Even after pages have been optimized, the process is not fully completed. As a last step, website administrators should monitor their site to ensure consistent peak performance. Notifications can be set up to alert key staff members when load times fall below normal levels or when any other issues creep up. Tackling these issues as they occur can prevent the need for a complete website overhaul later down the line. Overall, this approach can help guarantee that the company is continually improving its website to provide the best possible end-user experience.

SOASTA Marketing

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SOASTA Marketing

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