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A Non-Technical Guide To Using Pingdom Tools Speed Tests

By Terry Kyle
CEO, WPX Hosting

Why your website's speed matters?

In general, we are all getting more impatient.

We all feel time-poor, frustrated with obstacles and frequently overloaded with stuff we want to get done.

And these days we really hate WAITING.

For anything.

 

That also applies online.

And particularly to your target audience.

Regardless of the niche you work in.

And apart from the fact that Google has openly said that slow-loading websites will be ranked lower in their search results on mobile and desktop, what kind of experience do you want to give people who come to your website?

These are the same people that you invested so much time and money into attracting in the first place through SEO, paid traffic or other means.

Speed flat out matters.

That’s why WPX Hosting only runs superfast new, high-end servers that are deliberately underloaded with websites – to give your website visitors a great, fast loading experience.

However, sometimes we webmasters can unintentionally do things to our websites that can dramatically slow down page loading speed and we should fix that.

Therefore, this NON-technical guide will show you:

[a] how to identify these problems using Pingdom Tool speed tests, and,

[b] how to fix those quickly (many of which WPX Hosting support will do for you, quickly and free of charge, more on that later)

Who is this guide for?

I have written this guide in a deliberately non-technical, non-jargony way and assume that you are more of a Web entrepreneur than a hardcore tech geek (also why WPX fixes most technical issues for our customers, fast and free).

And instead of going into extreme technical detail on every single measurement inside Pingdom Tools, I am going to focus only on the best ‘bang-for-your-buck’ quick fixes for site speed, based on what we can see in Pingdom Tools results.

Why use Pingdom Tools to test speed?

At the time of writing this guide, there are 3 main, free speed testing tools that are popular online:

Pingdom Tools

GTMetrix

Google Page Speed Insights

Of those 3, Pingdom Tools is probably the most popular so that’s what I’m focusing on here.

I’ll get to the others in different guides in future but some of the general points about Pingdom Tools also apply to the other 2 tools.

So what’s good about Pingdom Tools?

If you’re not sure why your website pages are loading slower than you would like, free Pingdom Tools can help diagnose the problem/s.

At least, that’s IF you have an understanding of the (too much) information presented on a Pingdom Tools readout e.g.

 

And if your website is relevant for other countries around the world (e.g. you sell an information product or service), you can see how well your site is loading in different global locations:

 

What’s NOT so good about Pingdom Tools?

There are several VERY IMPORTANT factors to be aware of when looking at the above readout on Pingdom Tools, and it’s not necessarily Pingdom’s fault either.

These factors are especially CRITICAL when you are figuring out your site speed and the hosting that you are using for it:

  1. When a website is loading up for you or a visitor, the site will access files from BOTH your hosting company server AND external, 3rd party servers, probably far away from your hosting company’s server, like at WPX.

    This content can include files like Google Analytics, Google Fonts, Google reCaptcha, Google Ads, Gravatar icons, YouTube videos, Vimeo videos, Facebook tracking etc.



    It all depends on how the site has been set up and for what specific purpose.

    Typically, this external content, is MUCH SLOWER to load and is something that your hosting service can do nothing about.

    Ironically, Google content can load very slowly for your site, depending on how hard that server at Google is working at any given time.

    Google’s main websites don’t appear to do very well on these tools either – more on that shortly, including their own Google Page Speed Insights:
  2. However, even if your site SEEMS like it has a slow loading time on Pingdom Tools, it could be that the files or resources coming from slow-loading external servers, like Google Fonts, are loading in the BACKGROUND while the main page content IS already showing to your human visitors.


Pingdom Tools is obviously NOT a human and doesn’t see a website like a human being.

If you go to visit Google.com or YouTube.com, those pages look like they load pretty fast to a human BUT their test scores above were mediocre, right?

 

With any of these speed testing tools, they are software measuring the TOTAL loading time for a page and CANNOT tell if the normal, main content is loading very quickly for HUMAN visitors to your site.

 

Weird right?

So HOW exactly can you tell if the slow-loading bits of your website ARE or ARE NOT affecting what your human visitors see?

This is simply a question of seeing how quickly your website loads for you when you visit…BUT

 

 

 

 

 

What to IGNORE in Pingdom Tools?

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What on earth is this thing called “caching” & how does it affect speed?

‘Caching’ is a method for hugely speeding up the rate at which content (mainly text and images) is shown to visitors to your website.

If you’re not familiar with this ‘cache’ or ‘caching’ term or how it works, here's a brilliant metaphor:

Let’s say you’re sitting in a room with a desk, small ‘in tray’ on the desk and big filing cabinet further away from you in the room.

The big filing cabinet contains every single document and image you own, the works.

But to access things in the big filing cabinet is slower.

So you keep the documents and images you constantly use in your ‘in tray’ on your desk – right within easy reach so that you can grab them quickly.

Caching is like your website’s ‘in tray’ for fast, easy access to things that are constantly required.

With your website, it’s likely that certain pages are much more popular than others so the ‘cache’ keeps those in the server’s memory ‘in tray’ for fast use i.e. showing your new visitors the content from your most popular web pages very quickly.

On a typical website from small to massive, probably something like 5-10% of the webpages get almost all of the traffic.

The other 90-95% of the content that is rarely used and stays in the ‘big filing cabinet’ for slower retrieval, though if something there suddenly becomes popular, it will then go into the cache ‘in tray’ for a set period of time.

Make sense?

What's this "CDN" thingy all about?

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SEVEN Fastest Speed Fixes For A Slow Website?

Remembering that WPX Hosting can handle most of these for you, fast and free, here are 7 ways to dramatically speed up your website for your visitors:

[1] FAST hosting

[2] Image optimization:

Unlike most, technical, jargon heavy guides on image optimization that you can find online, the kind that recommend 27 different image programs, I'm going to suggest just ONE and just ONE optimization to make your image files smaller, which will make your pages load faster.

The free program I recommend and use a lot (there are laods out there) is paint.net

And in paint.net, we may need to change our image format from PNG (too big) to JPG and image quality in JPEG to 50%, that's all!

Plus the human eye cannot detect any difference image quality in a drop from 100% to 50% in JPG using paint.net - as far as I have ever seen.

So we need to see HOW to do those things in paint.net

Let's use an example of a smartphone photo of one of my beautiful dogs, Rina, from a couple of days ago - imagine I want to put this on wpxhosting.com:

well straight away, there's a big problem.

THREE problems for our site speed in fact, though the image is already in JPG format:

The image file straight from my smartphone is [a] almost 3 megabytes in size, soemthing that will hugely slow down the page loading speed unnecessarily, and [b] the actual image is not the right size to fit into the standard width of a wpxhosting.com page, 1170 pixels. Instead, it's 4608 pixels wide.

, Here's how using a big image file of one of my dogs Rina








[3] Site spring clean

[4] Caching (I described it above)

[5] Plugin mania

[6] Use a CDN (I also described that above)

[7] 

 

 

 

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