You should try PageSpeed Insights

You should try PageSpeed Insights

I recently interviewed for a CTO position in which I would be responsible for a portfolio of web properties. Upon hearing this, a friend suggested I try Google’s PageSpeed Insights to learn about the performance of those web properties. It’s just one of many Google tools designed to improve performance.

Per Google, “PageSpeed Insights analyzes the content of a web page, then generates suggestions to make that page faster.” It returns a score from 1 to 100 with 100 being fastest, one for mobile and one for desktop. I entered and got mediocre scores of 43 and 62. Game on!

I use WordPress for this site, so I searched for a plug-in to make my site faster. I settled on WP Fastest Cache because of its high ratings and performance tuning options.

  1. Enable cache system. My scores jumped to 54 and 70.
  2. Minify HTML. Updated scores of 54 and 74.
  3. Minify and combine CSS. Updated scores of 55 and 74.
  4. Combine JS. Updated scores of 52 and 72. They went down?
  5. Implement GZIP. Updated scores of 54 and 72.
  6. Undo step 4. Updated scores of 54 and 74.

Each step was a deep rabbit hole in the sense that you could read about insights and recommendations for hours. And these are just the free options. You can buy the premium version to unlock even more performance tuning options. Maybe later.

Google PageSpeed Insights

In the end, it would appear the performance of my site went up by 26% and 19% for mobile and desktop, respectively. I’ll take it even though I now have more questions than when I started. Why, for example, does combining JS files actually reduce performance? How much does a score need to change to be statistically significant? What if I changed the order in which I performed these tuning steps?

Back to the point of using PageSpeed Insights. Yes, it’s an easy way to get performance feedback and though it can be complicated to do the actual tuning, the tool does a nice job of pointing you in the right direction. No, I didn’t get the job – but maybe I would have if I had armed myself with this information earlier!

PS – For kicks, I entered and got scores of 53 and a whopping 92. But why is their mobile score not higher? Another rabbit hole that I just don’t have time for!

3 thoughts on “You should try PageSpeed Insights

  1. Hey Rick, thanks for the nice write up of this tool. The single large .js file is limited to a single thread to download it, while the separate files could be loaded in parallel and take less time. That could be an explanation for the performance drop, but that’s just a guess.

    1. An excellent thought Doug. I think the rationale behind the tool’s recommendation is that a single .js file reduces the number of HTTP requests. In this particular case, maybe the performance gain from reduced HTTP requests is lost in the extra download time? Another rabbit hole! Thanks for the read.

  2. Interesting follow up. I just switched the hosting of this website from GoDaddy to Bluehost and re-ran PageSpeed. My new scores are 63 and 88! That’s an improvement of 17% and 19%, mobile and desktop, respectively. It seems unlikely that Bluehost is THAT much faster than GoDaddy – hosting is, after all, somewhat of a commodity service these days – but it is exactly the same WordPress site on both hosts. Maybe I’ll dig into it later, but for now I’m pretty happy with the improvement. Go Bluehost!

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