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Performance

Monitor Website Speed for Better UX and SEO: Part I

 

Website speed has been known to be a key web success criteria in the technical community. With the growing list of data points (see Secret Sauce for Successful Web Site: Web Performance Optimization(WPO)) showing quantifiable ROI from improved Website performance, and, in particular, Google’s inclusion of site speed into web search rankings, site speed is becoming a key metric for marketers and SEO consultants now.

In February and March this year at the Search Engine Strategies conferences in London and New York ,  much information is shared and learned.  We think website performance is a key ingredient in any SEO or search engine strategy. The first step in using Website speed for better SEO is to be able to measure and understand Website performance.  But how do you monitor Website performance for better SEO, how do you judge your site loading user experience, and what are the tools available for web performance monitoring and site speed assessment?

What is Site Speed or Web Performance?

Site speed, or web performance, refers to how quickly a user can load and interact with your web page in a browser. This obviously defines the user experience (UX) and thus directly influences all other business metrics such as bounce rate, pages per visit, time on site, etc.  Companies like Google spend millions of dollars per month to optimize its own
site speed because they know the strategic importance of site speed.

How to judge Webpage Loading Performance?

Many products in the market as well as many articles reference only one timing metric to judge webpage loading performance. The metric typically corresponds to either the “document complete” event fired by the browser or the “onload” event fired by the browser.

However, user experience is not defined by one timing metric alone.  Webpage loading is a process and user experience is related to both the milestone moments of this process as well as how well this process proceeds. For example, webpage A takes 10 seconds to load and display all resources, but the user can see content in 1 second. Webpage B takes only 8 seconds to load and display all content but the user doesn’t see anything until the 3rd second. Using the “onload” or “document complete” metric alone, one would say webpage B is faster. However, the user experience of webpage A is actually much better than webpage B. In my experience, the best way to judge site speed is to look at the following four numbers together:

  • Time to Title: the amount of time it takes for the browser title bar to change
  • Time to First Paint: the amount of time that it takes for the user to see something painted in the browser window
  • Time to Display: the amount of time that  it takes for the page elements to be fully displayed, but not all components have finished loading yet.
  • Time to Interact: the amount of time that it takes the page to be fully loaded and ready for user interaction.

The following is from the web performance assessment report of www.cnn.com using Yottaa Insight?, a free web performance assessment and monitoring service.

Yottaa Web Performance Monitoring for cnn.com

Yottaa Score – Judging User Experience

Yottaa Score for cnn.comAt Yottaa, we realize that one timing metric alone is not sufficient to judge webpage performance. We developed the “Yottaa Score?” for this purpose. The Yottaa Score is a score that assesses the user experience of a web page loading. It takes into consideration of “Time to Title”, “Time to First Paint”, “Time to Display” and “Time to Interact”. The score ranges from 0 to 100.  A higher score means a better user experience. A webpage with a longer “Time to Display” but quicker “Time to First Paint” can deliver a better user experience, and hence a better Yottaa Score,  than a webpage with a quicker “Time to Display” but slower “Time to First Paint”.  Shown here is the Yottaa Score for www.cnn.com.

Summary

Web performance matters. How would you judge the user experience of a webpage loading performance? At Yottaa, we use “Yottaa Score” that combines key milestone moments (Time to Title, Time to First Paint, Time to Display and Time to Interact) as well as the progression through these key moments. We think it is a better way to measure user experience than using one timing metric alone. I’d love to hear you thoughts and comments on this.

In the next post, we’ll discuss the tools available for website speed monitoring.



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