Practical Ecommerce

The PEC Review: Page Speed

Site performance or speed is a key factor in improving sales conversions.

How quickly your website loads may be the difference between making a sale or losing a potential customer. For example, 52 percent of respondents to a 2009 study from Akamai and Forrester Research said that page performance was a factor in brand loyalty, implying that if your site was slow, some customers were not coming back. That percentage rose to 61 percent when only frequent shoppers were in view.

Akamai also found that a slow performing site led to more shopper dissatisfaction and more shopping cart abandonment. Separately, research from Shopzilla, which compared conversion rates for a performance-optimized site versus an earlier version of the site, found that faster page load times boosted sales by as much as 12 percent.

Surprisingly, minor site changes can cut load times significantly. But how do you know what to change? Page Speed can tell you.

Page Speed is a free, open source project from Google that helps site owners and managers measure their site’s performance and makes suggestions that can help boost that performance. Page Speed is easy to install, relatively easy to use, and worthy of four and a half out of a possible five stars in this “The PEC Review.”

“The PEC Review” is my weekly column aimed at introducing you to products or services that could help you improve your online business. This week, let me tell you why I use Page Speed.

Video Overview

Page Speed is Simple

Page Speed works as a Mozilla Firefox add-on (so you must use the Firefox browser) and requires that you also have the Firebug add-on installed, too.

Other than these prerequisites, using Page Speed is as simple as a couple of clicks—specifically to open Firebug and then select the Page Speed tab.

Get a Page Speed Score

The first way to use Page Speed is to score your site against widely held site performance best practices. These best practices are the measuring rod that Page Speed compares your site against, awarding a score from 0 to 100, where 100 is best.

To get this score, open your site in Firefox; open Firebug; click on the Page Speed tab; and click “Analyze Performance.” The add-on will automatically test your site and provide your score along with a list of prioritized suggestions.

Each suggestion can be expanded, so that you can see in more detail how to improve performance. This report is something that you can bring back to your site developer, who should be able to implement changes that will have your online store humming in no time.

Change User Agent

Even though Page Speed runs in Firefox, it can still test performance in other browsers (user agents). To learn how your site would perform in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7 or in Google’s speedy Chrome browser, click the down arrow on the Page Speed tab and select that browser. Page Speed will run the same test as if you were using that browser rather than Firefox.

four and one half stars graphic

Page Speed Activity

Page Speed can also capture all of the individual loading activity that takes place while your site is being rendered in the browser. This activity view can be used to measure ongoing JavaScript or Ajax activity, providing insight into how your scripts are performing, monitor image loading performance, or even see how much time the browser spends waiting for your server or ecommerce platform to respond.

Summing Up

Page Speed is an easy and potent Firefox add-on that will help you monitor your site’s performance. The tool costs nothing and gives much, which is why I awarded it four and a half out of a possible five stars in this review. Please watch the video (above) to see Page Speed in action.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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  1. researchstan May 10, 2010 Reply

    A great and free speed evaluation site is at http://gtmetrix.com/ .
    This site is offered by the gossamer-threads.com people. Solutions/diagnostics are offered for speed issues and you can maintain a history of speed tests of your site as well as make site access comparison with your competitors.

  2. ChristopherDickson May 14, 2010 Reply

    What a delicious irony!

    Nice article on Page Speed – a topic that we have been aware for some time now as being so important and one that we shall be addressing when our new website is fully up and running. Apart from ‘cleaning’ up some code to gzip static code, minify our css and javascript, enable cache and other small matters, we have decided to upload all our images to Amazon EC2 and then distribute them using Akamai, as our customers are in 54 countries around the globe.

    This action in Phase 1 should get us down from an awfully slow 5.2 seconds download (on our main Index page) but quicker elsewhere, to our target time of maximum 2 seconds for the slowest (Index page) pulled down by any of our customers wherever they reside in the world.

    Our Phase 2 involves two CDNs working in parallel from which components will be pulled simultaneously, whilst the dynamic content will be pulled from the grid at our main webhost, MediaTemple.

    The delicious irony?

    Two days after Armando published this helpful review, Kerry Murdock carried out one of his usually good and useful reviews on May 12, 2010 entitled ‘Merchant Grows Business by Focusing on Video’ (see: https://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/1894-Merchant-Grows-Business-by-Focusing-on-Video).

    Unfortunately, whilst not knocking any part of the website reviewed – which was interesting – the website concerned was incredibly slow downloading and took 25 seconds to fully load. Upon investigating further it became aparent that the website could use some of the help outlined by Armando in his Page Test article. However, before doing so the website needed a thorough re-design as there are over 311 calls to the webhost for various components to download. Wow, o’ wow!

    Thanks for all your reviews, which are always read with interest.