Today, many businesses have a significant digital footprint, and some rely heavily on their web applications to deliver value to their customers and generate revenue. In this competitive digital environment, it’s not enough to make sure your website is available 24/7. It would be best to optimize your websites regularly to provide a better experience. Slow pages or pages that are not optimized for mobile devices can increase bounce rates and impact your search engine rankings. This article will teach you how to monitor your website’s performance and speed up with the best web performance monitoring methods and tools.
WHAT IS WEB PERFORMANCE MONITORING?
Web performance monitoring refers to practices and tools that allow you to monitor your web application based on various metrics and technical parameters that affect page load speed and customer experience. Most web performance analyzers assist you in checking website status or uptime and track critical indicators such as page size, time to the first byte, broken links, database performance, CPU usage, etc. By regularly monitoring your web applications, you can identify lingering, hidden or cyclical issues and better prepare for unexpected spikes.
Web performance monitoring devices can also help you improve your web pages’ “perceived performance,” making them appear to load faster than they are. “Lazy loading” (the gradual loading of images or other elements as the user scrolls down a page, rather than loading the entire page at once), used on modern, image-heavy websites, is an excellent example of optimizing perceived performance. Modern web performance monitors also assist you in tracking user experience or UX-related cues, such as page load spinners, click and hover interactions, animations, scrolling, etc.
HOW FAST SHOULD YOUR WEBSITE LOAD?
When it comes to page load speed, several reports and guides, including this one from Google, recommend optimizing pages for mobile devices as a high priority. According to Backlinko, which gives one of the most up-to-date statistics, the average loading time of a website on mobile is 87% higher than on desktop. It also states that.
“The average loading speed (fully loaded) of a web page is 10.3 seconds on desktop and 27.3 seconds on mobile.”
The other essential signs measured by Backlinko are as follows:
- TTFB (Time to First Byte): 1.2 secs (desktop computer) and also 2.594 seconds (mobile).
- Rate Index: 4.782 seconds (desktop) and 11.455 seconds (mobile).
It should be noted that the overall size of the page has a significant impact on the loading speed. It would be best to consider compressing images and text to reduce the page size using Gzip.
THE MAIN FACTORS AFFECTING WEB PERFORMANCE
The performance of a web server directly affects the performance of your website. Whenever a browser pings your server, it asks the server to load or transmit data to your website. If your server is unhealthy, it will take longer to process these requests. In many cases, your hosting provider is responsible for server maintenance. If your website uses shared hosting and regularly struggles with resource issues, you should consider switching ISPs or choosing a higher plan with more CPU, RAM, and storage space. If you host your website yourself, you can check out this guide to web server monitoring.
The widespread availability of high-speed broadband and 4G mobile networks has enabled businesses to provide a better experience for their customers with rich multimedia content. Most customer-facing websites today contain high-resolution images.
As a result, the standard physical size of web pages has also risen. However, the increasing weight of pages can take longer to load. All images and components must be optimized or compressed wherever possible to ensure that your web pages load faster. Besides compression, there are other techniques to optimize page size. For example, you can use any streaming service instead of hosting video content on your servers.
Scripting or code-related issues
Faulty CMS plugins
One of the advantages of using content management systems (CMS) is that they offer numerous plugins that keep your development teams from reinventing the wheel. While these plugins save a lot of coding time and effort, they can also introduce performance and integration issues. Plugins developed with older technologies or inefficient database queries can lead to higher load times. In addition, free plugins are rarely updated and may have unpatched security vulnerabilities. Development groups should consider limiting the use of plugins as much as possible.
WHAT MAKES MONITORING WEB PERFORMANCE DIFFICULT?
Complex web architectures
It means that modern application architectures are significantly different from earlier times. Most enterprises are reshaping their traditional LAMP and MEAN stacks to leverage microservices and containers. These applications require analysis of a large amount of data from multiple sources for troubleshooting. Traditional web monitoring tools for availability and performance are not equipped to handle this complexity.
Lack of proactivity
Another major challenge most organizations face is that their teams often become accustomed to traditional processes and tools that provide a reactive method for web performance management. In other words, teams are prepared to respond to a problem but lack the tools and strategy to predict and prevent such problems from occurring.
Lack of intelligent alerting
“Alerting fatigue” is no stranger to IT administrators in large enterprises. Most traditional tools require a lot of time and effort to define baselines or understand how their site behaves in different situations. Even when alerts are configured accurately, problems can often go undetected because they fall below certain thresholds.
5 BEST PRACTICES FOR MONITORING WEB PERFORMANCE
- Monitoring website uptime statistics
- Monitoring errors
- Monitoring key transactions
- Monitoring application dependency
- Monitoring metrics using the RED method
1. Monitoring website uptime statistics
One of the first things you require to check is whether or not your website is online and available to your users. One way to check the website status is to use an HTTP ping monitor that pings your website in specific periods. As long as you get the 200 response code, you can ensure that the website is available. You can also analyze the ping response times to detect any problems or spikes.
2. Error monitoring
Whenever your application encounters problems, it generates errors. here are five categories of HTTP error codes (identified by the first digit of the code):
- 1xx: Informative
- 2xx: Success
- 3xx: Redirection
- 4xx: Client error
- 5xx: Server error
HTTP error 500, one of the most common errors, indicates that a web server has internal problems that cause errors when processing requests. It doesn’t say much, but if the error code keeps appearing, you should look at troubleshooting.
3. Monitoring key transactions
Specific web requests or transactions can be critical to your business operations. These requests vary depending on the type of web application. For example, an e-commerce application is significantly different from a banking application. Accordingly, the services, APIs, and plugins used for these transactions are also different. You require to identify these critical transactions and monitor them effectively.
You can monitor genuine user transactions with statistics showing the percentage of successful transactions and the time to complete them. If you see a sudden drop in the success rate, you can conclude that there may be a problem. Error logs let you determine the exact nature of the error. You can also monitor transactions synthetically by using servers to simulate real-world conditions. This approach is helpful for proactive planning and problem resolution.
4. Monitor application dependency
As organizations introduce more and more new features for their web applications, monitoring their performance in the live environment is essential. Application dependency issues often arise when applications are moved from the production and test environment to the production environment. Modern tools that support “distributed tracing” can help you identify the root cause of such issues in a microservices environment.
5. Monitoring metrics using the RED method
Several tools provide out-of-the-box web performance metrics. In addition, teams add their metrics. In principle, all these metrics must help them overview the entire environment by providing an aggregated view of their environment. However, this technique can also lead to information overload. They need to shortlist some critical metrics to assess the usability and health of the application quickly.
RED Metrics is a widely accepted technique for monitoring the three most crucial web performance metrics:
- Rate – requests offered by the application per second.
- Errors – the percentage of requests in which an error occurs
- Duration – time is taken to complete a request.
You may still require additional metrics from databases, external APIs, and other deeper analysis and troubleshooting sources. Nevertheless, if your application is running well, you don’t need to monitor all of these metrics all the time.
THE 8 BEST TOOLS FOR MONITORING WEB PERFORMANCE
- SolarWinds Pingdom
- PageSpeed Insights
- Dotcom Monitoring
- Uptime Robot
GTmetrix is among the most popular commercial devices for monitoring website performance. It provides a wide range of features for detailed testing and analysis of a web application.
You can get a free performance report for your website to quickly assess how GTmetrix can help you measure your web performance. As you can see in the screenshot above, key indicators such as PageSpeed scores (Google), YSlow scores (Yahoo), full load time, and total page size are displayed upfront. These scores are calculated based on more than 25 servers in seven regions worldwide, which can help you better assess the user experience in the target regions.
You can also obtain a detailed and in-depth overview of resource usage and monitor metrics like TTFB, First Paint, RUM (Real User Monitoring) Speed Index, etc., with various charts and visualizations. Another exciting feature is the page loading video, which can help you accurately identify problems from the user’s point of view. The only downside of this tool is that it can be a bit daunting for first-time users, as it is not easy to identify the most critical parameters for monitoring a website’s performance.
If you are searching for a free tool to measure website performance, you can try WebPageTest. Since it is an open-source tool, it is one of the most customizable web monitoring tools. Although it is a free tool, it offers options to select different browsers and server locations to get detailed insights into the user experience.
The tool takes a bit more time to run tests, but it provides you with enough options to identify issues that affect your website’s speed accurately. It also provides waterfall charts that allow you to monitor the time taken for each request in a visual way. A simple rule of thumb for analyzing waterfall charts is to check their width; a more comprehensive chart indicates a slower loading website. Moreover, you can also create custom metrics according to your monitoring needs.
SolarWinds® Pingdom® is another powerful tool that provides a much simpler yet practical and faster evaluation of your website. It monitors website uptime statistics, page speed, transactions, and actual users (RUM) with servers in more than 100 locations worldwide. The tool also supports synthetic monitoring. With Pingdom Website Speed Test, you can perform a free website test.
It will give you a quick summary of the test results with recommendations on improving page performance. You also get a tabular summary of response codes, content size by content type/domain, and content type/domain requests. You can also examine file requests by load, order, wait, DNS, status code, and other options.
Pingdom’s main advantages are its intuitive user interface, making it easy for new users to get the most out of the tool. It’s easy to set up email/SMS notifications with Pingdom, and it also integrates seamlessly with notification services like Slack and Pagerduty. You can also install the Pingdom mobile app, which connects to the uptime monitoring service and helps you monitor your site’s uptime on the go.
PageSpeed Insights from Google can be an effective tool for monitoring your website’s performance. However, teams mostly prefer it focusing on search engine optimization (SEO). When you run a test, you’ll get a concise summary of various parameters with options to drill into the topics that interest you.
You can examine various on-page and back-end elements of your web application and check how they affect loading speed and response times. The tool helps you monitor the quality of various primary components and provides recommendations on how to optimize different elements. The tool is ideal for tech-savvy marketing teams and even helps developers get familiar with Google’s web guidelines and recommendations.
Uptrends is a developed player in the web monitoring space. It offers a very intuitive dashboard to track various load times, errors, metrics, and waterfall graphs. You can run tests with multiple browsers from more than 200 sites worldwide.
The tool also lets you test website performance on mobile devices. The bandwidth throttling feature simulates slower mobile networks (2G, 3G, etc.) to test how your website performs under such conditions. However, to monitor transactions and APIs and enable multi-browser testing, you need to sign up for a Business or Enterprise subscription. Accurate user monitoring is also limited until you subscribe to more expensive plans.
Dotcom-Monitor offers comprehensive web performance monitoring features, including availability tests, transaction monitoring, performance metrics, alerts, event logs, and mail server monitoring. These features can help you get a detailed insight into each user’s web journey and ensure a better experience with continuous optimizations.
Like other advanced commercial devices, it also offers waterfall graphs and video playbacks to monitor different loading times and browsing patterns. The tool also provides a wide range of integrations to help you get the most out of your existing operational setup. A significant highlight of the product is the historical trend analysis and reporting feature, which permits you to predict future performance results based on key metrics.
Site24x7 is another effective website performance monitoring solution that offers famous and advanced features such as website defacement monitoring, SOAP web services, REST APIs, etc. With this service, you can obtain a detailed view of website uptime statistics and the performance of your web applications using test servers spread across more than 90 locations worldwide.
You can also track essential performance metrics with user-friendly dashboards and receive timely alerts to respond to and troubleshoot issues in real-time quickly. While the solution is suitable for end-to-end monitoring, the initial setup can be challenging, and fine-tuning alerts and notifications requires significant effort.
Uptime Robot is a simple website status checking tool. With the paid version of this device, you can automatically ping your website every minute to check the status of your website. If you receive a 200 response code, your website is available. In case of an error code, the tool performs several checks and finally triggers an alert.
You can get these alerts via SMS, email, or other services like Slack, Telegram, etc. Unlike other devices mentioned in this article, it does not offer recommendations or other advanced options for troubleshooting web performance issues. However, the accessible version of this tool can be a perfect option for smaller organizations that need a simple tool to monitor website uptime.
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