If you want to impress visitors and attract new customers, you need more than a website that just looks good and offers great content. It has to provide the functionality to keep visitors engaged.
If it’s confusing to navigate, suffers from slow page loading speeds or doesn’t have the right SEO metadata to offer to search engines, users won’t find it and, if they do, they’ll quickly become frustrated and leave again.
That’s why website design needs to take a holistic view that covers all of these issues. For instance, page loading times are a vital metric for both users and search engines alike.
There’s plenty of research that shows the damage a slow site can have on your revenue. One test run by the BBC on its own site, for example, found that for every additional second a page takes to load, ten per cent of users leave.
But it’s not just user frustration that this affects. Search engines also take into account site performance when determining their results, and will punish slow sites in their rankings.
Therefore, it’s vital to know if you’ve got a problem. We can help you with auditing your site and making recommendations, but there are also a wide range of free tools you can use yourself to get an idea of where any problems lie. Here are a few of our favourites:
Let’s be honest, when you talk about optimising for search, most often you mean optimising for Google. Therefore, it’s good to know exactly how your site’s performing on the metrics that matter most to the provider, and fortunately, there are plenty of tools available to take advantage.
While there are a range of services available as part of the Google Analytics package, one of the most useful is its PageSpeed Insights services, which shows you exactly how your site is performing.
This will look at all the pages on your website and give you a score between 0 and 100 – anything below 85 suggests you need improvements. It offers results for mobile and desktop sites, as well as suggestions for improvements for both ‘above the fold’ loading times and for full page loads.
If you really want to dig into detail about your site performance, GTMetrix offers a great range of data. As well as checking your sites against Google’s PageSpeed metrics, it also compares it with the open-source YSlow metrics, before giving your site a grade from A to F.
The free service lets you test your site’s performance across different connection types and from various locations. If you want even more insight, the paid version lets you monitor your site on an hourly basis, and sends you alerts if your performance drops.
It’s no wonder this tool is used by some of the web’s biggest companies, including PayPal, Spotify and GoDaddy, and has analysed more than 620 million pages and counting.
There’s more to a good user experience than superfast page loading speeds, however. If you want more insight into how your site’s performing when it comes to engaging users, Hotjar is a great tool.
It works by analysing the behaviour of actual users – things like where their mouse is hovering, how fast they’re scrolling and where they’re clicking. This is then shown to you with heat maps that show where their attention is focused and how many users actually click through to your key pages.
This gives you an intuitive insight into what’s working and what isn’t. If your most important content is hidden away out of sight, Hotjar can tell you. Similarly, if people are scrolling too fast down a page, it can be a sign they aren’t engaging with the content or are having trouble finding what they’re looking for.
If you need a more complete view of how your website performs in terms of speed, mobile optimisation and SEO, Hubspot’s free Website Grader tool is a great way to get a quick overview of where you should be focusing.
It offers insights in four key areas: performance, mobile-readiness, SEO and security. For instance, its SEO checker will look at your site for factors like page index, meta descriptions, content plugins, and descriptive link text, while the performance tools analyse metrics like page size, requests and speed.
Like Google’s PageSpeed, this will then give you a score out of 100 for the performance of your site, as well as a breakdown for each area of the report with key recommendations.