In 2021, This Dot Labs released PerfBuddy, the free online platform for testing web and mobile based sites.
With the release of this tool, it was our sincere hope to simplify the conversation around web performance, helping team leaders develop easy to understand metrics that they can use to advocate for further investment into their various web technologies.
But we also realize that many new to web development, or who work in software but not as developers, might need more clarification on some of the basic key terms to help them engage more actively in conversations surrounding web development.
Below, I’ve defined three of the top terms in web performance to help readers better ascertain your site’s performance, and play an active role in refining their technologies to provide the best experience for their customers.
First Contentful Paint Time (FCP)
FCP, or First Contentful Paint Time, is a critical metric that measures the time that users must wait in order for a page to load its first visible element.
For some sites, this could be the entire page. However, for others, the FCP time might measure the seconds between a user navigating to a site, and any responsive element, such as a loading bar, appearing in front of them.
This is not a measurement of backend nor even frontend script loading speed, but a metric that affords development teams the ability to infer the quality of their site’s initial UX.
According to metrics published by Akamai in 2018, sites are liable to lose nearly half of their visitors if their page takes more than three seconds to load.
In fact, just a single second of load time delay can result in a 7% decrease in sales conversions for eCommerce platforms.
This is especially true when considering mobile users, whose likelihood of leaving a page increases 90% when made to wait 5 seconds for a page to load And as more eCommerce shoppers turn to using their mobile devices- with 53% of users accessing shopping sites via mobile platforms on 2019’s Cyber Monday, representing a 40% YOY increase- teams need to be acutely aware of their cross platform performance with respect to FCP.
Time to First Byte (TTFB)
Not to be confused with FCP, TTFB, or Time to First Byte, refers to the amount of time that the browser waits in order to receive initial data from its server.
In order for a site to display any information, a browser must make dozens, if not more, data requests. Issues related either to the quality of the host, site functionality, or complexity can all contribute to a site’s latency, or the amount of time it takes for data to be passed between the server and the browser.
Of course, reducing site latency will improve user experience by decreasing FCP, and generally increasing browsing speed. However, ensuring low TTFB will also boost your SEO by making your site more quickly crawlable by leading search engines.
As developers add features and functionality to support more advanced user experience, web pages get heavier.
As of 2020, the average desktop webpage weighs 2080 KB, up from an average of 1532 KB in 2017, with the weight of mobile web pages slightly lower, but still seeing a near 40% increase in size when compared to stats from just four years ago.
eCommerce websites need to maintain acute awareness of their page weight, and ensure that their latency is not overly impacted by it, due to the tendency for shopping sites to be especially complex, supporting large catalogs of products along with other features to promote customer engagement.
And as this era of advanced digital transformation continues to expand, eCommerce sites must develop strategies to meet market expectations for performance without over burdening their sites with heavy plugins and functionalities.
Finding Your Path to Performance
It starts with equipping yourself with the right tools to test your site’s speed and weight. There are countless platforms used for testing sites, however, there are only a handful that are capable of unlocking the insight that you need to support your most critical websites. Though PerfBuddy is a great place to start in order to identify potential roadblocks, it cannot do the work of actually improving site performance.
By leveraging testing platforms such as Lighthouse, and continuously improving your performance metrics with assets such as DevTools, and strategies like Google’s PRPL, eCommerce retailers can ensure that their sites meet user expectations and promote their most critical business objectives.
Need help? Contact This Dot Labs to learn more about how developing the tools and strategies to ensure optimal site performance can support scalable growth as you continue refining user experience!