When you have a website, whether it is for personal or business reasons, you want to make sure that it works perfectly, and this includes speed. Your web host will be critical when it comes to the speed your website offers, and there are a number of ways the speed is measured, including the Speed Index measurement.
This measurement is a relatively new one in the world of web hosting, and it was actually created for WebPagetest.org. Many people get confused between this index and the actual page speed, so it can be worth it for anyone with a website to not only understand the difference but also to understand what the index means.
What is the Speed Index?
In simple terms, this measurement is the average time that it takes for the visible parts of a web page to display.
It is measured in milliseconds, and it is dependent on the view port’s size. It has only been around since 2012, and it is very useful when comparing one page to another. For instance, you can see how your page works before or after optimization or how your site measures up against a competitor. However, you should not rely on this measurement alone. It is best to use it in combination with other metrics, such as load time and page speed to totally understand how a website is performing.
So, how did this measurement come to be? In short, the industry required more information on how to measure the speed of web pages. Before this, people relied on milestone timings to find out how slow or fast a website was, and the most frequently used of these is the measurement of time until the web browser is able to produce a fully loaded page. This is easy to measure in both the real world and in a lab environment. However, it is not a good indicator of how the average web user will experience the site.
You see, pages get larger over time, and there is a lot of content that goes into the page that a user never sees
This content, which is referred to as ‘below the fold,’ is not visible on the screen to the user, but it still affects the load time. So, developers had to find a new way to measure how the user experiences this type of load time, and hence, came the Index speed.
This measures the visual progress of the page that the user can see, and it creates a score for how quickly this content appears. To do this, the metric calculates how ‘complete’ the web page is at different points during the loading of the page. This is completed by taking a video of the page loading in the browser, just as a user would see it, and then inspecting each frame with precision.
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Why is This Measurement Important?
Now that you know what this measurement is, you now must understand why this measurement is so important. First, remember, this is not a number that should ever be taken on its own, as it is only one small part of the overall picture of how the website is measured. However, it is an important number because it shows how quickly a user sees your content.
This is even more important as it affects the user experience that someone has when he or she is visiting your website. If the user has a negative experience at your website, they will likely never come back. In other words, if your website does not load as quickly as others, especially your competitors, you are at a disadvantage. When you know what these measurements are and where you stand, you can make adjustments and changes to ensure that your website is as good as it can be.
Why is This Measurement More Accurate Than Page Load Time?
Now, it is important to talk about the accuracy of this measurement when compared to other metrics, especially page load time. Before even getting into this, however, it is important that you understand the difference between the index and the page load time. We already know that the index measures how quickly items appear on the page, but the page speed measures how long it takes the page to load to 100 percent.
The index score is a much better indicator of the end user experience because as soon as content begins to appear, even if the entire page is loaded, it catches the user’s eye, and they can begin browsing the page. Most people don’t mind if they have to wait a few seconds for an ad or large picture to load, but the so-called ‘meat’ of the page must appear almost immediately to hold the attention of the page’s visitor. Since the main reason for measuring these things is to appeal to visitors, you can see how this measurement is not only more important, but also much more accurate.
The Best Speed Scores to Aim For
Now, you know what this index score means, and you know why it is so important. You also know why this measure is more accurate than the page load time. You may have even taken some time to measure these scores for your own page. If you have, you might even know what your page’s score is at this point. Is it good or bad? This is a difficult thing to answer because this measure is so abstract where other measurements are taken at a specific point in time. Also, this index number depends on a range of factors including viewport size and browser type.
However, to give you an idea of what you should aim for with this score, consider a recent study. In this test, which was done in the UK, the top 50 retailer home pages were measured against each other. The connection was an 8Mbps connection, and the browser was Internet Explorer 11. The best score when all of the sites were tested was 819. The average was 3,658, and the poorest was 8,582.
Paul Irish commented on how fast a website should be, he suggested that a speed index of under 1000 is what you should aim for.
Now, whether or not you are aiming for a specific figure or not, you should always take this measurement into account when you make any change to your website. For instance, if you make a change that causes your index score to rise by a few hundred points, but it cuts 0.25 seconds from the load time, this probably isn’t something you want to continue with. Why? Though you are making your total page load more quickly, it will make your page stay blank for a longer period of time.
It’s important to understand that the index is a metric that complements other metrics, but does not replace those other metrics. You still need to look at the entire package when it comes to creating the best experience for your visitors.
Looking Closely at Our Results
Now that you are pretty much an expert at what this means, you will understand the test results that we found when testing a number of WordPress hosting sites. We found that SiteGround had the fastest index with an average score of 1430.30. It was followed by Web Hosting Hub with an average score of 1463.23 and A2 Hosting with an average score of 1463.33. The hosting sites that had the worst scores include Inmotion, Bluehost, and HostGator.
Please know about background of these tests (you can read about them here). The size of the webpage was about 1.6MB, we used $3-6 p/m shared hosting. While Paul suggested a speed index of less than 1000. The results from our tests with a webpage size of 1.6MB on affordable shared hosting had results of 1430.30 which is excellent for shared hosting. Keep that in mind when thinking about the results, no doubt if we used a more powerful server with SiteGround then I’m confident we would get below 1000.
From these test, you can easily see that SiteGround has performed the best when it comes to how quickly the web page begins to load, and this is important when it comes to the user experience, as mentioned above. With good index scores, you may experience a lower bounce rate; people are more apt to spend more time on your site, and you may get more page views than ever before.
As you can see, this score is one that is important, and it should be a focus as you change or even choose your web hosting provider. Though it is not the only indicator of page success, it is one that you should certainly pay attention to when setting up a new page or redesigning your current one.