Website speed tests

It’s Sunday, too hot to be outside, and I’m kinda bored. I think just for fun I’ll test-drive a few of the website speed checkers that clutter the web. Speed matters. WP, like any CMS, is handicapped from the start. My browser asks a flat html site for a page, the site says “OK, here you go.” By comparison, WP says “OK, sure. Hang around a bit. I’ll query and pull a bunch of stuff from the database, fetch some images, some CSS and Javascript files, and build that page for you.” So, I do what I can – or at least what I think makes sense – to make my sites speedy.

Website speed tests

It makes sense to test my sites’ speed, to use the results to optimize where I can, and to track over time to catch any new speed bumps that arise. Challenge 1: There are so many available online speed checkers – which should I use? Challenge 2: Very inconsistent results from checker to checker, but also from the same checker at different times. Will circle back to the challenges; for now on to the checkers – in rough order of Google listing when I search on “website speed checker”. Some of the checkers allow me to choose a location. I’ll pick San Francisco or San Jose.

  1. The very popular Pingdom. And I do mean popular …
    Really? #273 in line? No thanks. I’ll move on.
  2. GTMetrix:
    Not too bad. My grade is A or B – I’ll average it to B+. Speed is a bit under two seconds.
  3. Google Page Insights:

    Score is ‘Good’, which I will conflate with a ‘B’. Page speed is “Unavailable”. Really? Google has ample resources to libel me as a purveyor of hate and a criminal copyright pirate, but has no way to check page speed? Are you kidding me? Not terribly helpful.
  4. UpTrends:
    Hmm. Score is great – 94, a solid ‘A’. Load time is awful – 4.4 seconds.
  5. WebPageTest:
    Hey! Straight A’s! Yea me.
    Load time 1.3 seconds – pretty good.
  6. DotComTools:

    On “Repeat Visit”, load time is 634 ms, very good.
  7. ThinkWithGoogle:

    Grade is “Good”, which I will conflate with a ‘B’. Load time is 4 seconds – seems pretty bad to me.
  8. Montis: No grade given. Load time 3.4 seconds – pretty bad.
  9. KeyCDN: No grade given. Load time 2.7 seconds – just OK.
  10. Gotta circle back and retry Pingdom – maybe it has unqueued:
    Load time less than a second – pretty good. Performance grade C – not so good.
  11. That’s it for the first page of Google search. But – gotta try one more. Buried around the middle of page 2 in the search results is my favorite website speed checker – GiftOfSpeed:

    Grade A and A, load time less than a second. Very good.

In summary, results are all over the damn place. My site’s speed grade is A, B+, B, or C. Load time is less than or second, or over 4 seconds. Also, there seems to be no correlation between grade and actual speed. Pingdom gives me a ‘C’ with less than a second load time, Uptrends gives me an ‘A’ with a 4.4 second load time.

Furthermore, if I use the same 10 checkers again, I will get different – sometimes wildly divergent – results from the same checker at different times.

So, what to do? My POV:

  • I disregard website speed and optimization grades completely. They seem arbitrary – almost random even – and have no obvious correlation to actual speed.
  • I stick with one checker. I use GiftOfSpeed. I have no real evidence, but it seems to me to be the most consistent. Others – Pingdom in particular – may be victims of their own success, too popular and therefore too overloaded to give accurate results.
  • To track a site’s speed over time, I do not use the raw load time. Rather, I use the delta between my site’s load time and that of a baseline site. My sites are WP, so I use as a baseline to measure my site’s speed against. I figure the experts at WordPress have optimized the speed of their site pretty well. If my site can match or exceed that speed – and they do, consistently – I think I am doing OK.

Update: Website speed tests – Part 2

WPPOV supports freedom from Net Neutrality and the GDPR. The Internet of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.