Measuring Mobile Website Speed? Be Sure You Know Your Tools.
It’s time to get smart about getting fast. And that means using the right tools to measure your mobile site’s speed.
The future of your firm’s business is in the palm of legal consumers’ hands. Literally.
A January 2017 report from the Pew Research Center makes that very clear. As Pew notes, 77 percent of Americans now own a smartphone. That’s just about equal to the percentage of Americans who own a desktop or laptop computer. Americans now spend 71 percent of their online time on mobile devices, a category that includes smartphones and tablets.
More and more, potential clients are using those devices to find legal help. And as we noted last week, those consumers aren’t going to stick around to learn more about your firm and its capabilities if your mobile website loads slowly. Often, they simply can’t wait. Even a couple of seconds can mean the difference between getting a client and getting the brushoff. That’s the key message, by the way, in FindLaw’s new white paper, “Seconds Matter: The Real-World Risks of a Slow Mobile Website.”
So how can you know how fast your site appears on legal consumers’ smartphones?
As the white paper notes, there are online tools that can measure your mobile site’s speed and help to diagnose potential issues. Before we list those tools, let’s look at what they look at:
- Server response time measures how long it takes for the mobile consumer to get a response from your host server.
- Code base, which describes how a website is coded. The number of lines, coding style and even structure can affect how quickly the source code is processed and displayed by a web browser.
Now let’s take a peek inside the toolbox. When it comes to familiar brands, Google is the digital equivalent of Black & Decker, Skil and Craftsman, all rolled into one. Google’s tool, called PageSpeed, “scores” website speed performance based on page-loading speed and code base. And being a Google product, it’s a well-designed tool.
Just one thing: PageSpeed metrics overlook one crucial element. And that’s the load time for each page elements. PageSpeed is a very useful tool – but one that doesn’t offer the whole picture of how well your site’s engine is performing. To get that big-picture view, you need to also make use of other speed-measurement tools.
There are a lot to choose from—names include GTmetrix, Yslow, Webpagetest.org and Pingdom. Most of these online tools offer at least one free test. (They typically make their money by offering additional features for a price.) Each of these evaluation tools’ results includes a report not only on the speed but the factors that are slowing down delivery of the site. These are also called “waterfall tools” because their reports include waterfall charts that sort out the speeds of all of the site elements in the order that they load. Those elements may include images, text and videos, but they also include the behind-the-scenes stuff that make websites work like style sheets, plugins, interactive scripts, and the like.
There are many good waterfall tools out there. And you’ll want to tap more than one. Evaluating your site’s speed based solely on a single test or metric provides an incomplete picture. A website can score well on one tool but receive a noticeably different assessment on another. In order to get a complete picture of your website’s loading speed, the best practice is to evaluate the site using multiple assessments.
This will help give you a more exact idea of how fast your site really runs. And that can help you and your vendor figure out how to tune up your firm’s site so that it loads at the speed potential clients need and expect.