Jul 19, 2021
How to Run a Website Speed Test + 19 Top Tools to Check Performance
A website’s speed has a significant influence on its traffic and reputation. It’s also one of the most important factors required to rank high on search engines. Moreover, a slow website deters visitors from continuing to browse the website.
Thus, monitoring your web page speed is essential. Conducting a website speed test can shed some light on the performance of your website and any weak points that need improvement.
However, doing a proper website speed test can be a tricky job. To get meaningful results, website owners need to understand the key metrics and the correct testing method.
This article will show you how to perform a website speed test and explain its main metrics. In addition, we will analyze 19 website speed testing tools and present some tips to optimize your website speed.
How to Run a Website Speed Test
There are a few steps you need to take before conducting a website speed test.
First, enable caching and make sure to use a content delivery network (CDN) on your website. These are two tools that can significantly speed up your loading time.
A cache will store copies of website files both on the client and server sides. This speeds up the subsequent website load time using the copied files instead of requesting them again from the website server.
Check with your hosting provider whether there are any caching tools installed. Here at Hostinger, we have LiteSpeed Cache pre-installed on all hosting plans, so you don’t have to set it up yourself.
Once you’ve got a caching tool, move on and set up a CDN.
A CDN is a geographically distributed network of proxy servers and data centers. It aims to reduce the physical distance between the servers and users to minimize the loading time. Using a CDN can reduce the load time by 30%.
After you have both caching and a CDN ready, pick a website speed test tool. We recommend using GTMetrix or Pingdom for desktop website speed tests and Google PageSpeed Insights for mobile website speed tests.
Method 1: Test Using Multiple Tools
We recommend conducting several speed tests with multiple testing tools. Test results from one tool may differ, so using multiple tools will provide a load time range. Compare the test results to get an average number.
We also recommend running multiple tests with each tool. In GTMetrix, it’s easy to do so by clicking the Re-Test button.
Running multiple tests is important to make the caching work. When you run a test for the first time, the cache hasn’t stored any data, making the website slower than it should be. Website speed test results should provide you with response headers to see whether the resources are cached.
After running the test several times, there should be enough stored in the cache to reveal the website’s optimum performance. Doing so also measures the difference that caching makes on your website.
Method 2: Test on Different Server Locations
Most website speed testing tools support testing from different locations around the world. This helps you to discover how different locations may experience a different website speed. Naturally, the further away from the data center, the slower it gets.
Make the test more relevant by using Google Analytics to discover where most of the traffic comes from. Then, run the test choosing a server location according to the traffic source.
For example, if your visitors mostly come from Asia, running a test using a Singaporean server will reflect the true website speed that the visitors experience. Run multiple tests if you have various sources of traffic to see performance differences between regions.
This is also a good chance to test your website speed with and without a CDN activated. It showcases how effectively the CDN speeds up your website in various regions.
Understanding Website Speed Metrics
After running a website speed test, the tool will present you with a web performance report. Different tools may include different metrics on their test results.
However, the most important one to look at is the page load time.
Some tools may call this metric differently, such as fully-loaded time, but essentially, it measures the time required to load all the page elements.
Users may click the back button if a page loads too slow. Furthermore, they will get a bad impression of both the website and brand. Disappointed users are also less likely to visit the site again.
If your website takes more than two seconds to load, look at the details on the reports. Most tools will show what may be causing the page to load slowly and will provide suggestions for speeding up the site.
A waterfall chart is also a good way to visualize the website’s loading process. It specifies the loading time for each resource, helping to analyze which ones take longer.
Click on any resource to open the HTTP headers. This will tell you if a resource is cached or compressed into GZIP.
Now, let’s take a look at other metrics.
First Contentful Paint (FCP) measures the time between the visitor’s request and the first text, image, or any other content element that appears on their browser.
This is not to be confused with First Paint or Start Render Time. This metric takes into account non-content elements such as the background color. While it’s a good indication of when users get a response on their browser, there’s no meaningful content to be seen.
Largest Contentful Paint is also a helpful metric. Similar to FCP, it measures the time needed to load an element. However, this metric focuses on the largest content element, such as the hero image.
Lastly, look at the Time to Interactivity. It measures how long it takes for the page to be fully interactive – when users can click a button, open a drop-down menu, or fill in a text field, for example.
Why Does Page Speed Matter?
A faster page speed will improve user experience, letting visitors navigate your website without having to painfully wait for the webpage to load.
A slow website speed may lead users to abandon the page and thus negatively affect your website traffic, reputation, and user retention.
In essence, website page speed is important for the following reasons:
- Traffic – if the page load time increases from one to three seconds, the bounce probability increases by 32%.
- SEO – page speed is important for SEO. If your page doesn’t load quickly, it will rank lower on search engine result pages (SERPs).
- Conversion rate – bad SEO and low traffic will negatively affect your conversion rate. If you run an eCommerce or subscription-based website, you’ll likely get fewer customers as a result.
Performing a periodic website speed test prevents you from having a slow website and experiencing its negative consequences. It will help uncover any issues you might be having with your website and give you a chance to optimize and make it faster.
Top 19 Free Website Speed Test Tools
Some speed test tools may offer hundreds of testing locations and simultaneous tests, while others are much simpler. We have created a list of the 19 best website speed test tools to help you choose the right one.
GTmetrix uses Google Lighthouse to measure website performance. It includes crucial metrics such as fully loaded time, first contentful paint, and largest contentful paint.
It also provides content size details and information about the top issues that are affecting the website’s performance. Testing from multiple server locations is also possible.
To see how well your website performs with different types of network connections, use the connection throttling feature, which lets you choose connection speeds.
Testing a website using GTmetrix is free. However, there are premium plans that offer additional test server locations, mobile device testing, and white-label report.
Pingdom is a website performance monitoring platform that offers a free website speed test. Users get access to important metrics like page load time, page size, and performance grade.
In addition, the test result provides suggestions for page improvement and a content size breakdown.
Pingdom offers premium services to monitor uptime, page speed, transaction, and visitor insights. It will also notify clients if any downtime occurs. Prices start at $10/month.
WebPageTest provides free speed tests from multiple locations and using several browsers, including options for desktop, mobile, and tablet.
One of its key features is multiple-run testing. It’s capable of conducting up to nine runs of testing and, by the end of all sessions, it provides page speed optimization checks, waterfall charts for each run, and improvement suggestions.
Another great feature is the visual comparison test. This lets you enter multiple URLs to test them simultaneously and provides a visual comparison using a filmstrip view of how pages compare to each other.
The Google-owned PageSpeed Insights measures user experience on mobile and desktop devices based on the Chrome UX Report.
At the top of the test result page, you get a performance score determined by Lighthouse, followed by the field and lab data. The field data contains information about what visitors actually experience on the site, while the lab data is collected in a controlled environment to identify and fix performance issues.
The report also provides suggestions for speed optimization that include estimated savings in loading time. The diagnostic report indicates which tasks and applications affect the website’s performance.
5. Site Speed (Google Analytics)
Side Speed is a part of Google Analytics and it evaluates your site performance based on page-load time, execution speed, and parse duration.
The test report contains a detailed analysis of individual pages and resource performance, also providing tailored optimization suggestions.
To use this tool, you need to add Google Analytics to your website.
Test My Site is a mobile website speed test tool available for free. Along with measuring website speed, it benchmarks your site against competitors.
It also provides custom reports along with suggestions on how to improve the page’s performance.
Since it’s essential to provide a mobile website performance that matches the site’s desktop version, this tool is one of the most useful platforms to achieve that.
KeyCDN conducts speed tests from 10 different locations. The results display three main metrics: load time, total page size, and the number of requests.
The complete report breaks down the metrics using charts and provides a detailed waterfall chart breakdown.
In addition to a full-page speed test and geolocation check, KeyCDN also offers various network and security checks such as DNS queries and the SSL FREAK test.
The Dotcom-Monitor website speed test tool offers browser-based load time testing from 21 test servers. It lets you select any of the five available browsers and configure the connection speed for network throttling.
The free version allows testing up to five different locations simultaneously. However, if you use the Dotcom-Monitor without signing up, it is limited to only three locations.
You’ll get an average first visit load time, repeat visit load time, and a detailed waterfall report from each test location.
The premium version starts at $9.99/month, offering unlimited concurrent locations and test automation.
Dareboost’s speed test tool can conduct performance monitoring from 13 locations and seven devices, including mobile.
This tool’s key features include the ability to simulate a speed test with and without ad-blocking and block specific domains to discover the culprit of poor web performance.
The test provides a thorough report. It includes recommendations divided into several categories, such as accessibility and browser rendering, making it easy to prioritize the required improvements.
The free plan allows up to five tests/month. To conduct more tests and access the performance monitoring service, get a premium plan, starting at $59/month.
Geekflare provides a thorough audit of your site, with options to conduct the speed test using a desktop or mobile device. After the test, you’ll get a comprehensive report.
It provides three scores: performance, best practices, and SEO. In addition, there are other metrics that check your site performance, such as the time to first byte and first contentful paint.
The performance, best practices, and SEO audits highlight aspects of the website that need optimization. In addition, there’s a detailed waterfall chart and a breakdown of all requests.
New Relic’s online test allows for the monitoring of page loading from 20 different locations – it only requires inputting the URL, monitoring frequency, and test locations.
Once a monitor is created, it will generate charts that analyze the page performance. Users can customize notification policies to receive a specific alert when there’s an issue.
The free plan allows for up to 10,000 monitoring checks/month. Premium plans offer up to 10 million monitoring checks/month and multiple user accounts. The platform follows a usage-based pricing model.
12. k6 Load Testing
k6 is a load testing tool designed for engineering teams and is available in two versions: open-source and cloud-based.
Its cloud version is capable of running tests from 17 regions around the world. Additionally, users can see how their website performs under peak traffic volume. If a reliability issue arises, k6 will notify them immediately.
A free trial is available with a limit of 50 cloud test runs. If you need more runs, get a premium plan that starts at $59/month.
Alternatively, use the open-source tool for free for limited and small-scale testing.
IsItWP is a speed test tool for WordPress websites. It measures your total load time, page size, and gathers lab data similar to PageSpeed Insights.
Then, it grades your site’s performance and provides a compelling list of improvement suggestions.
14. Image Analysis Tool (Cloudinary)
Cloudinary’s tool analyzes the images on your website as they often increase the total page size, slowing down the loading times.
This tool reveals any image-related issue and suggests image optimization actions as well as potential size savings.
TeamViewer’s premium website monitoring service lets you monitor up to five URLs with check frequencies of up to 20 minutes. There are 32 location options available, and you can choose up to two locations for each web monitoring.
The page load insights provide you with detailed load times for each element, so you’ll know which aspects need improvement. It will alert you if an element fails to load or the load time exceeds a certain threshold.
The price for this web monitoring service is $130.80/year, with a 7-day money-back guarantee. If you need more monitors or options, contact TeamViewer’s team for a custom package.
16. Chrome DevTools
Chrome DevTools is a service built into the Google Chrome browser. Targeting developers as their primary users, these tools facilitate auditing the site, diagnosing problems, and optimizing pages.
However, it is not as beginner-friendly as most other tools. Using Chrome DevTools requires coding and programming knowledge in order to fully optimize a website.
GiftOfSpeed provides options to test your website from eight different locations. It also offers such crucial metrics as page size, time to visible content, and fully loaded time. The report includes a request waterfall chart and request breakdown as well.
Additionally, it provides various page optimization tools like image compressors and the code line breaks remover. To top it all off, GiftOfSpeed offers a tailored optimization service available at custom prices.
Uptrends’s free website speed test tool evaluates your website’s load time on desktop or mobile browsers. There are 10 locations to choose from and a bandwidth throttling feature.
It supports Google Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. For mobile devices, there are more than 20 device emulation options.
Premium plans are available with the starting price of $15.47/month for 10 website monitors.
BatchSpeed incorporates Google’s PageSpeed API to conduct a bulk speed test. This tool crawls the website and its sitemap before doing the test. Once it gathers all URLs, it tests all the available pages.
This bulk test helps identify slow pages that need improvements on all your websites. Sort the result list by the metrics of your choice to see which pages to prioritize.
Tips to Optimize Website Speed
After you run several website speed tests, you may want to know how to speed up your site. We have gathered a few tips that may help you improve website performance.
1. Leverage Caching
Caching stores content in local storage. Users get the content from the stored cache rather than sending requests to the main server, which results in a faster loading time.
The easiest way to leverage caching is by using WordPress plugins. WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache are among the most popular caching plugins, and they help optimize other aspects as well.
2. Optimize Images
Image optimization is one of the most common methods to speed up websites. It minimizes the image file sizes and therefore reduces the total web page size.
There are several ways to optimize images. The first is image compression, which can reduce the image size without sacrificing its quality.
The second way is by enabling lazy loading. This way, the image on the page won’t load until users scroll down to the section that contains it.
3. Enable GZIP Compression
GZIP compression is another method to reduce the size of website files. This way, visitors will download compressed data instead of full-sized files, which results in faster loading times on the client’s side.
Another method is by modifying the .htaccess file. However, this is a more technical approach, so we recommend creating a backup file first.
While the difference may be minuscule, little changes count when it comes to optimizing an entire website.
5. Setup a CDN
Another method to optimize your site speed is by setting up a CDN, which provides a network of proxy servers that handle user requests.
When a user accesses your website, they send requests to get your website’s data. Without a CDN, the origin server – the primary source of your website – handles all the traffic requests.
A CDN cuts this process by taking some of the requests on their servers. Moreover, these CDN servers may be geographically closer to the users, reducing the content delivery time.
Spreading the requests to a CDN also helps reduce the bandwidth usage on the main server so it can handle traffic better.
Several Hostinger plans already include a CDN, saving time in setting it up and helping to optimize your site from the start.
Website speed is an aspect that definitely needs all the attention it can get from webmasters. As most visitors avoid slow-loading websites, load time becomes an important factor in determining the quality of user experience.
Slow loading time also plays a significant role in causing your site to rank low in SERPs and experience low website traffic. Thus, you don’t want these issues happening to your site.
Luckily, there are plenty of speed test tools to help monitor and optimize your web pages.
If you’re looking for a user-friendly one, Google has many handy tools such as PageSpeed Insights and Test My Site. They’re free and built directly into Google Chrome, so they are also very accessible.
If your website contains many images, the Image Analysis Tool is a perfect choice. It helps improve the use of high-quality images without sacrificing your load times.
For more monitoring tests and optimization methods, Pingdom and GTMetrix are a few among your best options. Their reputation and expertise give you access to some of the best possible tools to test web performance, identify bottlenecks, and solve issues.
Let us know in the comments below if you have already used any of these tools to conduct a website speed test.