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Website Performance

The Top 5 Free Website Speed Testing Tools

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One of the most critical factors for the success of any website is speed. Not only do you rank higher in terms of SEO, you also get better conversion rates, more traffic, lower bounce rates and your visitors enjoy a much better experience overall.

There are plenty of free speed tools available and you should make use of them as often as you can.

What a Speed Test Will Tell You

Some of the more common things that speed test tools can pinpoint are:

  • Fonts, plugins, and scripts that cause issues for load time
  • Script minification
  • Image compression
  • Render-blocking
  • TTFB – Testing Time to First Byte
  • Analyzing load times, number of requests and page sizes
  • Performance from various locations
  • Rendering speed from multiple browsers
  • HTTP Header Analysis
  • Performance of CDN
  • Checking that assets load from your CDN correctly

The Top 5 Free Website Speed Testing Tools

Now you know what you are looking for, its time to look at the top 5 of these free speed test tools:

KeyCDN

KeyCDN is fast and its lightweight, providing full details on the way your website is performing. It has 14 various locations around the world and you can choose to make your results public or keep them private.

You get a waterfall breakdown and you also get a visual preview, showing you, at a glance, the size of the requested page, the number of HTTP requests and load time. It works well on mobile devices.

Google PageSpeed Insights

This speed test tool gives your website a grade from 1 to 100. Every website owner aspires to get 100/100 but few do; obviously the higher your number is, the better your site has been optimized.

In short, if you score over 85, you’re doing alright. PageSpeed provides analysis of web and mobile site versions, providing a full report of any issues on your site.

Pingdom

Pingdom is one of the better-known speed test tools, offering reports that are set out in four sections – a waterfall breakdown, history, page analysis, and performance.

Page analysis provides details on requests per domain, what content is requested the most, size per domain and a size analysis. They have four locations for testing from and the performance insights are similar to those from Google PageSpeed.

GTMetrix

GTMetrix is another well-known tool that is very detailed. It grades your website from F to A after checking both YSlow and PageSpeed metrics. Reports are in five sections – YSlow, PageSpeed, video, waterfall, and history.

The free version offers you seven testing locations and a choice of two browsers. You can check different connection types and get a video of the analysis, so you can see where the problems are.

WebPage Test

WebPage Test is like the previous tools, but it offers more than 40 locations and more than 25 browsers, including mobile browsers. Website grading is from F to A after various tests have been carried out, including compression, how effectively you use your CDN, caching and so on.

The reports are in five sections – screenshots, content breakdown, performance review, details, and a summary. Its approach to testing is unique in that you get a first view and a repeat view, so you can see if a DNS lookup delay is just a first-time thing or a regular one. You also get advanced features like ignoring SSL certificates, disabling JavaScript and video capture.

Summary

As you see, there are plenty of tools and these are just five of them. Each is unique and has its own features and its own way of doing things.

You should get into the habit of testing your site on a regular basis, so you can set benchmarks over the course of time – this allows you to make the necessary improvements as needed.

Are there any other tools you are using that we missed here?

Anne-Marie is a staff writer and successful blogger at Learn About The Web. When she's not busy discussing Wordpress performance tips with friends, you’ll find her surfing at the beach in California or discovering new restaurants in Los Angeles.

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Editorial

Website Performance Tip – Inline Your CSS and JS

One way to improve your page load speed is to inline CSS and JavaScript and all this means is that you include both in your HTML file.

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inline small javascript css

One way to improve your page load speed is to inline CSS and JavaScript and all this means is that you include both in your HTML file.

You should have the inline small CSS inside the ‘’ tag while the inline JS can be in the ‘’ or ‘’ tag. Most of the time, best practice dictates that you should call JS and CSS using an external file, but you can include snippets of both in the HTML, saving multiple round trips, and speeding things up a little.

Many of the top site speed test tools recommend inlining CSS and JS and it is relatively easy to do. However, you do need to be careful that you don’t overdo it and inline too much.

Example of Inline Small CSS and JS

To give you an idea how to do it, this example shows you what your HTML file may look like when CSS and JS are inlined. We’ve enclosed the CSS inside ‘

‘<html>

<head>

<title>Inline Small CSS & JS Example</title>

## Start Inline CSS

<style>

body{background: #f5f5f5;}

a{color: #24890d; text-decoration: none;}

h1{font-size: 26px;line-height: 1.3846153846;}

</style>

## End Inline CSS

</head>

<body>

……

 

## Start Inline JavaScript

<script>

JavaScript code…

</script>

## End Inline JavaScript

</body>

</html>’

If you have got several small CSS or JS files, the code from each one may be inlined in the HTML file but do keep an eye on the overall size of the file.

Drawbacks

As with everything, there are a couple of drawbacks to inlining CSS and JS, more specifically, a tradeoff between caching and requests.

When you include the resources in the HTML file, you don’t need to make the extra requests to the resource but, where your resource file is quite large and mostly static (it doesn’t change much), it is probably best not to inline it, so the browser can cache it.

The biggest drawback of inlining is that CSS and JS can’t be cached because the browser can’t store what is in the HTML file.

This means that the entire HTML file needs to be fetched every time and, if it is full of CSS and JS, then it could be far more detrimental than retrieving the CSS or JS individually.

For this reason, you must be careful about how much you inline and don’t bloat the HTML file out.

Benefits

The benefits of inlining CSS and JS include fewer round trips thus reducing loading time so, if you some files that have only a little CSS or JS in them, it is worth adding to them to the HTML to make page loading more efficient.

This is also the recommended method to use if you want to cut down the latency caused by CSS, resulting in the critical path being optimized.

As said earlier, don’t overdo this. If the CSS and JS files are too large it is better to let them be cached rather than having to call a bloated HTML file every time.

Alternatively, if you can’t inline then another way is to combine small CSS into one external file and JS into another and call them that way – this also cuts down on round trips and boost page speed.

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Optimizing Scripts

WordPress Performance Tip: Implement Full Page Caching

Every week a new caching plugin gets released but before you jump on each one to try it out, you need to understand how caching works, especially as it is multi-level.

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Wordpress Performance Tips - Enable Keep Alive

Every week a new caching plugin gets released but before you jump on each one to try it out, you need to understand how caching works, especially as it is multi-level.

Whenever a request is sent by a user to a specific page, the reply doesn’t come straight from the website. Instead, if the data is fresh, it must be prepared from scratch and that takes time.

By the time it actually arrives with the user, the chances are they’ve gotten fed up and gone to another website.

Full Page Caching

Full page caching is done at different levels:

  • Network level
  • Server level
  • Application level

Network Level

Two excellent examples of full page caching at network level are Cloudflare and Fastly. Both of these implement full page caching before a request even gets to the server where your website lives.

This is down to point of presence being used in multiple locations so that, when a user requests a page, the request goes via Cloudflare or Fastly, to the server.

The Point of Presence (PoP) caches the response for a predetermined time. For example, if the server sends an s-maxage cache header of 24 hours, any subsequent request for that page will be served by the PoP server for a period of 24 hours, and not the origin server.

Server Level

This type of full page caching is done by the web server or the origin server. For example, Apache uses Traffic Server, while Nginx uses fastcgi caching and proxy cache.

Application Level

There is no trickery here, its all done by WordPress caching engines and these are the most popular:

  • WP Super Cache – the most popular caching engine with a few add-ons, like the integration of CDN.
  • W3 Total Cache – another very popular one, with CDN integration and tends to be installed by default on many web hosts
  • Batcache – a plugin that doesn’t get used as much as it should, this one does just what it says – caching. Nothing more, nothing less. There is no CDN integration, no preloading of cache, no tricks. Just pure and simple full page caching. There is a catch though; there is no file-based caching. Most plugins that offer caching generally create files that have got the cached page version in them so that when the request is made, the file is served. Batcache will create an entire full page cache and store it in WP Object Cache.

These are the best solutions available for full page caching on your WordPress website. It really doesn’t matter which one you choose, it will have the result of speeding up your page loading times and server response time.

If you choose one of the caching plugins, simply go to your WordPress dashboard and download it from there. None of them require any special configuration because they are simple plugins that do what they say on the box.

Full page caching is one of the first optimizations you should make for speeding up your website because it seriously affects the front-end experience.

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Website Performance

WordPress Performance Tips – Enable Keep Alive

Keep-Alive allows a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connection to gain access to several files from the server to the browser, rather than having to create a connection for each new request or file.

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Wordpress Performance Tips - Enable Keep Alive

Keep-Alive allows a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connection to gain access to several files from the server to the browser, rather than having to create a connection for each new request or file.

It is often termed as a persistent HTTP connection but how does it work?

Anyone who has a website knows how a web browser and server works, how they connect and coordinate every request. When you go to any webpage, the browser will create a new connection with the server and then send requests for specific files; the server gives the thumbs-up and the browser gets the go-ahead.

The browser will download that file and then another connection is made for another file, and so on.

Now, let’s suppose that your browser is requesting 10 files so that a webpage can be displayed.

That means your browser needs to create a connection for each one, that’s 10 connections and each one must be requested individually – that can really slow down the speed the webpage loads at.

Enable Keep-Alive

Enabling Keep-Alive is one way to ensure a browser creates just one connection to access every file it needs in one hit. This results in fewer requests being sent to the server, fewer server resources being used, and much faster page load speeds.

It doesn’t matter whether your website is a simple blog, or a full-on powerhouse e-commerce site loading speed is important so enabling Keep-Alive is also important.

You may find that your web host already has it enabled by default so do check with them first before you do any of the following methods.

Enabling Keep-Alive Using .htaccess

Find your .htaccess file and open it. Add the following code to it:

# TN START ENABLE KEEP ALIVE

Header set Connection keep-alive

# TN END ENABLE KEEP ALIVE

This should be added right at the end of the .htaccess fie, after the very last line and it will add a Keep-Alive HTTP header enabling the feature.

Enabling Keep-Alive in Apache

Many of the new Apache servers already have Keep-Alive enabled by default, However, if it isn’t, you need to access the HTTP Server Configuration file for your Apache server. Look for the file in

– /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf

And then add the following code to the file:

# Set it On to enable Keep-Alive, Off to disable Keep-Alive
KeepAlive On

# Set maximum requests per connection, set 0 for unlimited request, 100 request per connection is ideal
MaxKeepAliveRequests 100

# Set per connection timeout for next request
KeepAliveTimeout 15

Enabling Keep-Alive in Nginx

If you use an Nginx server, you will probably find that Keep-Alive has already been enabled.

If, on the slim chance, that it hasn’t, you will need to go into the core module of the server, which is called ngx_http_core_module and look for where it says ‘keepalive_disable’. Change this to read enable and you should be good to go.

Have you done this? Is Keep-Alive enabled on your website? Make sure it is and enjoy much faster loading times.

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