In remote partnerships and collaborations, a company's website's look and functionality are as crucial as its physical office's interior and design. Just like business prospects won't stay in a messy and shabby office, they won't get converted into clients upon visiting a poorly designed and badly performing website.
Knowing this, companies and organizations approach their web presence seriously, ensuring high levels of comfort and usability. However, what does it take to achieve peak website performance?
This article outlines five good-to-know steps to improve website performance metrics and secure flawless experiences for potential customers.
Step 1. Know your metrics
Improvements start with awareness of what to improve. Naturally, most entrepreneurs and business leaders engaged in expanding their digital image know core website performance metrics, such as bounce rate, page speed, and the number of assets. But these general terms rely on several important metrics responsible for different aspects of website performance.
Page Load Time
Indicates how long it takes for the page to load completely, with all its assets, elements, and additional resources. The faster the page loads, the higher the user experience.
Optimal time: 3 sec.
- Web hosting
- File size
- Lack/availability of CDN
Time to First Byte (TTFB)
Represents the time it takes for a user's browser to receive the first byte of information from the server. In short words, TTFB registers how fast the website responds to the request sent by the user.
Optimal time: 0.8 sec.
- Server location
- Server configuration
First Contentful Paint (FCP)
Shows how fast the first image, text, or any other piece of content (including non-white canvas elements and background images) is rendered on the screen.
Optimal time: 1 sec.
- File size
- Server response time
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
Measures the time needed for the largest piece of visual content (image, animation, video) to render fully.
Optimal time: 2.5 sec
- Server response time
First Input Delay (FID)
Evaluates the user's first interaction with the website and how much it takes for a website to respond to the interaction (delay between user request and website response)
Optimal time: 0.1 sec
- Image and script download
- Third-party code
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Represents the intensity of layout shifting whenever the page is loaded—such as elements and visuals going out of place or loading partially.
- File size
- Dynamic content
- Lack/presence of image dimensions
First Time To Interactive (TTI) Paint (FCP)
Demonstrates the time required before users can interact with all the elements on the page (widgets, videos, interactive animations).
Optimal time: less than 3.8 sec
- Third-party code
Total Blocking Time (TBT)
Documents the amount of time the page remains unresponsive to the user's input due to data loading.
Optimal time: less than 50 ms
- Main-thread work
Cache Hit Ratio
Stands for the requests processed by retrieving the data from the cache rather than from the server. A high cache hit ratio indicates low server load and, therefore, ensures a smoothly operating website.
- Cache size
- Cache policy
- Object expiry time
HTTP requests number
Registers the number of requests to load the page the user's browser sends. A low number of requests evidence positive and satisfactory website performance.
It is worth noting that each metric in this brief rundown can be explored and dissected via individual article series because there are many details and specifics to unpack. For now, let's see what makes this specific metric so crucial to website performance:
- They define the level of user experience
Metrics like LCP, CLS, and FID make up Google's Core Web Vitals—i.e., metrics detrimental to a high page experience score from Google's point of view. Since experience will become one of Google's ranking factors, keeping these metrics low is the key to high user satisfaction rates.
- They show where it hurts
A high bounce rate shows that many visitors leave websites too soon—but high TTFB and FCP point out why it happens. Without a deep dive into such metrics, it's not uncommon for entrepreneurs to push the blame for high bounce rates on the visual style of the website, SEO, or trendy elements they don't have. As a result, they end up investing in many superficial website reworks without addressing the main issues.
- They guarantee successful conversions
As a digital greeting card and a virtual office, a website must be swift and responsive to requests and inquiries. No matter how good the company's products or services are or how many intriguing campaigns the brand comes up with, once potential customers stumble across a slowly-loading page or a patchy layout, they are out of the sales funnel. The metrics we outlined above grant business owners and brand leaders a vision of the elements responsible for pushing users toward making a target action.
Step 2. Know how to check website performance
Once you know the key elements that make up website performance and user experience, there is another question—how to keep an eye on them? While there are many website KPIs to monitor and understand, luckily, website owners don't have to do it manually or go through them one by one. Several tools and solutions available in open access have already automated this process.
For example, Google equips users with Google Lighthouse—an open-source tool that can be accessed through Chrome DevTools. Google Lighthouse enables measuring website performance, best practice monitoring, and performing SEO checkups by generating comprehensive reports on website metrics. To navigate website owners better, Google Lighthouse reports are accompanied by a list of notifications (in case of poor performance) and suggestions for performance improvement.
Another useful tool is Google PageSpeed Insights. Fast, web-based, and available for free, it inspects the website's Core Web Vitals, evaluating their speed and performance. To get started, users only need to enter the website URL—after this, they will receive an informative breakdown of their key website performance indicators.
Google PageSpeed Insights always summarizes the analysis with the final score and also delivers a detailed list of diagnostics and recommendations, identifying areas for improvement. What adds even more value to the tool is that it analyzes both mobile and desktop versions and delivers individual reports, giving users a 360 view of their website's performance.
With such tools at hand, metrics checking and monitoring into a swift and informative routine—at least, we strongly recommend making metric checkups a part of every website owner's routine. Doing so allows for addressing performance issues before they start compromising user experience and conversion.
Step 3. Optimize your resources
- Speed first, quality second
When making a good first impression, image quality matters less than its load speed. If it takes too long for users to see the first piece of content, they will likely leave before they admire the visuals. So, for instance, to ensure optimal FCP, it makes sense to lower the image quality to put it in front of the users as soon as they access the website. This can be achieved with the help of resource size management tools that can convert images into progressive images (low-quality, blurred versions) that take much less time to load and instantly capture the user's attention. After this, they're followed by high-resolution images, securing positive FCP values without essentially sacrificing the visuals.
- No need to load everything in one go
Web design elements aren't a single file—they consist of multiple chunk files, which facilitates many processes, including improving website performance metrics, such as FCP, LCP, and CML. For example, with a lazy loading procedure, you can divide website resources into critical and non-critical ones. Critical resources get rendered and displayed first, enabling users to instantly engage with the website—while non-critical resources load when needed, e.g., when users scroll down the page. That approach helps streamline the website performance considerably and conserves bandwidth and system resources.
- Minify and compress
Although both options sound like a task for tech-savvy users, there are free tools that can do the heavy lifting. Of course, such tools don't work for every website—they don't scale easily, which means that minification should be done manually if you have a medium-to-large website.
Step 4. Don’t ignore browser compatibility
One particularly deceptive pitfall can catch you by surprise when you finally deploy your perfectly optimized and well-performing website. Everything looks proper and works perfectly from your devices—and yet, the values for your FCP and TTFB keep worsening, indicating a problem you can't see. However, the reason is quite simple—the problem comes from the user's side due to their slower PCs or mobile devices or unstable internet connection.
While these are external factors you seemingly have no control over, you can prevent them from botching your website's user experience by planning with the help of performance throttling.
Performance throttling is a technique that involves using special utilities to slow down the PC processor and internet connection to run a website through a wide variety of scenarios.
By including this procedure in your range of website performance tests, you can see what your website looks like when accessed from a slower or older device, how it performs at different download speeds, and across different browsers. As a result, you get a better vision of how your potential clients interact with your website, what problems they may run into or what can make them leave—and how to make sure they get only positive impressions from their time on the website, regardless of the device, browser or internet provider they use.
Step 5. Use a content delivery network
When addressing the matter of increasing page load time or improving TTFB values and Cache Hit Ratio, a content delivery network (CDN) becomes a must.
Largely used by applications and web resources, a CDN allows the distribution of content across a number of servers located in different parts of the region or globe, guaranteeing synchronous data delivery and exchange with minimal latency. In addition to improved delivery speed, a CDN also offers the following:
- Advanced caching
Some networks enable selective caching of dynamic content, which was previously considered uncacheable, considerably reducing the server load and providing access to all interactive elements of the website.
- Improved security
A CDN can soak up vast traffic volumes, making it extremely useful for protecting websites from DoS and DDoS attacks. Instead of crashing under pressure, as a single server would, a CDN scatters the large amounts of junk traffic directed at the website across its many servers. As a result, websites powered by a CDN remain unaffected by the attack.
- Uninterrupted service
Some CDNs can bypass and work around network congestion by evenly distributing the network traffic—ensuring uninterrupted website performance and availability.
Step 6. Choose the right people for the right metric
Despite the abundance of automated tools and solutions that streamline procedures like CSS compression or image optimization, boosting website performance metrics will often require a personalized approach.
Due to this, it’s important to maintain tight, back-and-forth communication between you and your UX designers, DevOps, front-end, and back-end developers—as their insights and experience will make a strong foundation for a productive and friction-free website post-development journey. After all, most common website performance issues arise when clients don’t discuss the process of website development with teams specialized in creating and maintaining websites. Full awareness and understanding of computer website design specifics requires engagement and proactivity.
In the process of website creation, discussing your vision with the team ensures the realization of your ideas for the website in a way compatible with Core Web Vitals and your goals. And then, after the website is launched, you have a firm knowledge of who to ask for assistance with a specific metric, enabling you to tackle the issue swiftly and focus on seizing opportunities.
Looking for experienced web development consultants, who can walk you through all your questions about building and maintaining websites? Let’s chat! Our website design and development services prioritize your business identity, merging innovative design principles with advanced backend functionalities.
With our value-oriented team, you will harness the latest web technologies and enrich your clients’ experience with the latest website usability practices while building a recognizable and engaging digital presence.