How Fast Is Your Site? Measure It With Google's Page Speed Online

Editors note: The following guest post is written by Josh Fraser.  Josh is the co-founder of a new startup called Torbit which automatically optimizes websites for speed.

Yesterday Google announced Page Speed Online, which provides a quick and easy way to accurately measure the speed of your website directly from the web. Previously available only as a browser add-on, Google Labs launch allows you to analyze your site from anywhere and receive instant feedback on making it faster. Chances are, your website could perform better—all of ours could.  There are a lot of tools online that only measure server response time, giving an inaccurate picture of your site’s speed. For example, blazing fast servers might return your HTML in a fraction of a second, but visitors to your site will still be waiting for images to download or javascript to be executed. In contrast, Page Speed Online uses a webkit-based renderer to time all components of your site for a more complete picture of its performance.

Page Speed Online is simple to use.  Just enter a URL and get instant suggestions for performance improvements on your site.  Page Speed Online gives you a score out of 100 and breaks down suggestions by their priority.  Google caches the results, making it faster to use than comparative tools like WebPageTest which offers more features.  With Page Speed Online you can also get mobile-specific recommendations.  For instance, since mobile device CPUs are less powerful than desktop CPUs, suggestions that reduce CPU consumption will be featured more prominently.

Performance matters. We all know that.  Everyone can relate to the frustration of waiting on a site that takes forever to load.  Website owners in particular should care about performance.  The correlation between the speed of your website and revenue has been shown over and over again.  Improving your site’s performance is the easiest way to increase pageviews, conversions and sales.  For example, Yahoo found that a 400ms improvement to the speed of their site increased their pageviews by 9%.  Firefox shaved 2.2 seconds off their average page load time and increased download conversions by 15.4%.  Shopzilla reduced their loading time from 7 seconds to 2 and increased their pageviews by 25% and revenue by 7-12%.

Google has been a long-time champion of making the internet faster.  Not only did it rise to prominence by being the fastest search engine, but it also encourages other sites to be fast by using site speed in its web search ranking.  Google has also released a slew of tools to help website owners measure and improve the performance of their sites.  Google released Page Speed plugins for Firefox and Chrome and include performance data in its webmaster tools.  Just yesterday, Steve Souders announced HTTPArchive which keeps an archive of how top websites are built and tracks their performance ranking over time.  The data is being recorded using real browsers so the archive is an accurate representation of the experience of actual visitors.  Performance is obviously a priority for Google and it’s something we all value.  Venture capitalist Fred Wilson even calls speed “the #1 feature for startups”.

Page Speed Online is an important step for the web because it’s lowering the bar for people who want to do performance analysis on their sites.  You no longer have to download desktop software, install a plugin or even have a copy of the browser that you’re testing – all you need is any browser.  Google employee and performance guru, Steve Souders told me a story from a party he attended where a startup CTO was asking him for site improvement suggestions:

I didn’t have my laptop handy and was about to give up, but then I remembered Page Speed Online. From my mobile phone I was able to run his site through Page Speed Online and give him specific performance fixes. On top of that were the suggestions for mobile. Page Speed Online provides performance analysis for any website for desktop and mobile from any web client.

I also talked with the tech lead for Page Speed Online, Bryan McQuade and asked him what was next for the service.  He says:

Going forward we’re planning to add even more mobile-targeted analysis to the open-source Page Speed SDK, which powers Page Speed Online, our Page Speed browser extensions, and is used by WebPagetest and other sites.

Of course, Page Speed Online will only tell you that your site is slow; it won’t fix it for you (although there is an Apache module that helps). Our company, Torbit, and others such as Disrupt runner-up CloudFlare and, are working to automate all these best-practises to make websites fast. Torbit is still in private BETA, but you can sign up now to get in before our public launch.