Category Archives: Free Tools

The free tools section provides information and a listing of important free tools that can help you measure and improve web performance and user experience (UX).

Measuring Mobile Web Performance with HttpWatch Basic

I’m not going to regurgitate piles of annoying statistics about mobile penetration and user engagement. We all know the future of your digital relationship with your constituency is significantly mobile.

HttpWatch Basic is an excellent free tool for understanding performance of mobile web pages. It’s available as an app on iOS right now (no Android yet) and it runs on the iPhone or the iPad. It’s an HTTP sniffer for monitoring and optimzing web pages. You can get it for yourself here on itunes.

When you open the app it looks just like a browser so just enter the web page you want to test at the top.  I’ll use my own URL www.apmexaminer.com (you should use yours).

Once the web page looks loaded just click the little icon at the top (bottom if iPhone) right that looks like a bar graph and  the web page waterfall report that shows how long it took to download each of the resources used by the mobile web page to my iPad is displayed.

mobile web performance rpt

The user interface also supports walking through a multi-page user journey so you can come back and evaluate the performance of each page of the mobile website visited.

Tapping any of the individual items will display more information about the performance and timing of that web page resource.

mobile web resource performance

You can do this from your iPhone on WiFi and when using mobile data to get a good feel for  how your mobile website performs for end users.

There is a professional version of HttpWatch for $99.00 that shows a lot more detail including timing breakdowns,  cookies,  request and response headers and network info.

The free version still provides some very good info as well and this is a series about free tools.

Have you tried it with your website yet?

Ken

Webpagetest Provides a Consummate Free Web Page Performance Analysis

Webpagetest.org is a consummate FREE web page testing network with rich page load and visual performance data as well as Google’s pagespeed optimization recommendations.

Don’t be afraid of it. It won’t bite and this stuff is important :) Use it early and often and track the key metrics over time and before and after website and web hosting changes.

This is not a web performance monitoring service. It allows you to run a test for a single web page (or a scripted transaction) in most of the popular browsers and some mobile devices as well.

Let’s run a test of my website and see the results together. I’m just going to enter my URL:  apmexaminer.com and click the “start test” button.

web page test - screenshot - start

At that point your test is queued up to run and after less than a minute a report on web performance and user experience is presented.  There is a summary table of key performance metrics, a small version of the waterfall fullpage performance report for a first visit to your site and then a returning user.

The summary table at the top presents key performance timings.

I think the 3 most important are:

First byte – the time it takes until the website responds with the first packet of data after the page is requested. This is a key measure of your website’s latency.

First render – when the browser begins to visually paint the web page so the user can see it

Fully loaded time – how long it takes to retrieve every resource from the internet needed to render your web page

You can read what all the timings mean here.

web page test - screenshot - results1

The most interesting view can be seen by clicking the link to the right of the screenshot that says “Filmstrip view.”  This view aligns the visual rendering of the tested web page with the fullpage resource waterfall report.

This view let’s you see how the web browser visually  renders the web page over time as the web page assets are loading.

web page test - screenshot - visual performance

Did you try it on your web page?
How long does it take before your website starts to render?
Most leading websites these days are beginning to deliver user experience in around 1 second.

When you look at the filmstrip view move the slider under the screenshots back and forth and the corresponding line representing which content is downloading at that point is shown vertically in the waterfall report below.

Use the “performance review” section, which displays Google pagespeed optimization recommendations to prioritize improvements and focus on the resources that get loaded leading up to visual rendering first.

Are you using the free tools I’m sharing to take ownership of user experience and performance for your website?

Webpagetest was developed by Patrick Meenan of Google. Patrick’s contribution to the web performance space is significant.

Browsers supported: IE 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, Firefox, Chrome
Mobile devices supported: iPhone4, iPad, Nexus S

Pingdom – Free is a Great Place to Start with Website Monitoring

Everybody has to start somewhere and if you don’t already have some specific sophisticated needs for upper tier website monitoring services Pingdom offers an excellent place to start for free.

Most people looking for website monitoring services are trying to answer the questions…

Is my site up?   and   How is it performing?

For a single website, Pingdom will help you answer both for FREE.

Some people say you get what you pay for, but I think this is a very adequate monitoring service that I use for my own website’s monitoring needs.

What do you get for free?

Each free account gets 1 “check” and the ability to monitor basic real user monitoring (RUM) statistics for a single web domain.

The “check” can be setup as a 1-minute basic site test for availability or a 10-minute multistep transaction.  They don’t have a fancy transaction recorder so you will have to do some hand scripting in their high level language if you want a transaction.  I’m using the 1-minute basic website monitor because I really like the granularity of the short testing interval.

Here’s a quick glimpse at the Dashboard for my site check.

pingdom-dashboard

You also get their new’ish basic real user monitoring (RUM) that captures the page load timing from the web browser of all of your site visitors and displays information about those visitors by performance, geography, pages visited and more.

It uses the APDEX method for calculating user experience and presenting the % of users hat are satisfied, tolerating or frustrated.

 pingdom-dashboardpingdom - rum dashboard

And they also have this nifty web page tester.
And a pretty keen mobile app that can view monitoring status and receive push notifications for errors for iPhone and Android.

Of course, if you have more sophisticated synthetic web performance monitoring needs there are a slew of services to evaluate, but please don’t say you can’t afford to ensure the availability and performance of your website.

Ken