10 tips to keep in mind when testing the speed of your WordPress website

You want to test the speed of your WordPress website, and you’ve already identified the tools you’re going to use for testing. Great! However, before getting started, be sure to keep the following in mind.

Things to remember when testing a website speed

Avoid useless redirects

When testing, make sure to use the right URL. For example, if your website is using HTTPS, you must use the HTTPS version of that URL, or else any tool used for testing might consider the redirect from HTTP to HTTPS as a request, which will impact your score negatively.

Test more than just the homepage

When comes the time to analyze the loading time of their website, many people only test the homepage without considering any other page. While your homepage is probably the slowest page of your website, this is not always the case. Remember that some assets aren’t loaded on the homepage, so you should test other pages to get a better understanding of your website speed.

For WordPress websites, you’ll usually want to test at least the homepage, a single post, and an archive or category page.

Don’t rely on results of only one tool

You should test your website speed with more than just one of the online services available since most of them are complementary. Some might provide you with information that you won’t get with others services.

External scripts and assets could have an impact on your score

If you’re using Google Analytics or Adsense, you’ll probably get browser caching issues because of these scripts, and your score will most likely be affected. If you have JetPack installed on your WordPress website, or if you are displaying Facebook or Twitter sharing buttons, you’ll probably get this kind of issue as well.

When testing, since we can’t do a lot about these scripts, don’t worry too much about it. If you consider to remove them while testing, of course, don’t forget to put them back in place once you’re done!

Test the same page many times

You should test the same page several times since the results can often vary, even though you didn’t change anything. It’s better to test a page a few times, and then calculate the average based on the results provided after each test.

Consider testing with different browsers

When possible, and if the tool you’re using allows it, you should also test the website speed with different browsers. Depending on the browser used, the results can vary greatly, since each browser renders the page differently. For example, some older versions of Internet Explorer will display a blank page until all of the resources are downloaded, while Google Chrome will start rendering the page as soon as possible. In a case like this, it will most likely affect the First Contentful Paint (FCP) and DOM Content Loaded (DCL) metrics.

Keep track of the results

Keep track of the speed tests you’re doing. You should always download a report if the tool you used allows it, otherwise, try to keep the data in a spreadsheet so you can refer to it later. After all, you want to see if things are getting better or not. Without data, you can’t compare! And you won’t remember the results you were having six months ago.

Test your website with and without the cache enabled

Many caching plugins are available for WordPress, and they are way easier to use than ten years ago. When testing your website, you should consider running the tests with both caching enabled and disabled, and compare the results. Even though most of the time, your users will see a cached version of a page on your website, this won’t always be the case. You’ll want to know if a non-cached version of the page takes 20 seconds to load.

Don’t try to get the perfect score

While it might be tempting to try to get a perfect score, remember that this isn’t necessary. In fact, if you’re only focusing on the score itself, you’re missing the point. Like Google says, “you need to evaluate the cost of making changes vs. the benefit the rule would have on your page.”

Consider switching hosts

Some of the recommendations could be hard and even impossible to implement based on where your website is hosted. Also, no matter what you do to speed up your site, these attempts might be doomed to failure simply because of your hosting provider. If you’re hosting your website on a shared environment for only a few bucks per month, don’t be surprised if you’re not able to get any results when trying to optimize your website speed. So if you do not have the results you were hoping for and you’re not satisfied with your current host, consider switching to WP Captain, we’re pretty darn quick!

In the next post of this series, we’ll review Google PageSpeed Insights, since it’s most likely one of the most popular services for testing the speed of a website.

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Dave Lavoie
Co-Founder of WP Captain, I'm a senior WordPress developer and solutions architect. I lead all WordPress development efforts and provide advanced customer support to our users.

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