Present Your Website Performance Findings with this Helpful Optimization Report Template
A slow website affects customer happiness, increases abandonment, lowers brand experience, impacts SEO, frustrates site admins, and just kinda makes everything suck. We’ve been "under the hood" performance tuning websites for clients for 14 years. In our Improving Website Performance Series, we'll help you establish a baseline for your site, review the key levers we look to for performance improvements, and point you in the right direction as you get started.
Presenting your findings
Your website doesn’t need to be the fastest on the internet (this is especially true if you value a rich brand experience), so don’t make that your goal. But your website does need to perform well — hopefully better than well — to meet the baseline of customer expectations for performance.
There are usually competing interests in optimizing a website, and we sometimes see those escalate and create tension amongst client teams. Bad performance can cause real user frustration, abandonment of carts, and just a poor experience for your most important asset: your customers.
In the Website Performance Series, we cover three main messages:
- Performance is a user’s perception of when your website has loaded.
- A single webpage requires loading hundreds of individual elements (and many of those elements are being referenced in from other places and applications).
- There are four key levers at your disposal for improving site performance.
When clients come to us for help with their website performance, we often start by presenting back performance findings and recommendations. This helps to get teams on the same page, allows for discussion of competing goals, and center discussions around the top few elements that could greatly improve their website’s performance.
We’ve created a sample Website Optimization Report you can adapt for your situation. It has a few sections described below:
Section 1: Background
Start with an overview of all the feedback you've received. This includes customers' reported experiences, management and site administrators speed experiences, reports from the hosting company, or other types of anecdotal evidence.
We also like to include a slide with the overview of the four main levers available:
Section 2: Analysis
Following the guidelines in the blog How to Measure Your Website Speed, we provide a summary of the metrics used for analysis. This can be from Google Developer Tools network view, GT Metrix/Lighthouse, server performance tools, code and extension audits, cache configuration. For top-three metrics that Google includes in its signals for SEO, have a look at our post on Core Web Vitals.
Consolidating and comparing the results from these reports, you will be able to triangulate on the key issues slowing down the site.
Section 3: Recommendations
We typically kick things off with our top three in-depth recommendations when clients come to us with website performance issues. Some examples of actual findings and recommendations have included things like:
- There are a half-dozen third-party marketing technology services (from simple chat pop ups to A/B testing tools) that have been added to the website.
- The website has dozens of extensions that have been added, presenting load issues from extension conflicts.
- Mobile responsiveness was built incorrectly and is loading/resizing the desktop versions of images, rather than loading a mobile-sized/optimized version.
- One (or many) image or video assets on the page are too big and weighing down the page. Resize/crop/compress images correctly and re-upload.
- Server RAM has been misconfigured and isn’t allocating enough memory for its database processes.
- Application caching is disabled or bypassed.
- Server caching (like Redis or Varnish) is misconfigured or being bypassed.
- Host size is too small for the applications specs or being in a shared server environment.
- The theme needs to be redesigned and rebuilt.
- You’re too popular! Load issues are related to unexpected traffic spikes (sometimes from social posts, for example, where it is hard to prepare for a spike).
Section 4: Next steps
We wrap things up in our overview with a set of next steps and suggest priorities of those next steps. It might involve site admins, marketing, design/UX, web operations, your hosting provider, and site developers. Addressing website performance issues will be a team effort, but know that all sites can be improved.
Pro-Tip: Using the performance data analysis tools (and general team perception), review the before/after of the site performance. Establish a new baseline so you can measure against it going forward.
Training your team to think about performance
Realize that the next deploy, the next image upload, the next marketing technology tool added, the next server migration, then next application upgrade… these all can degrade your site performance. Train your team to be aware that their actions on the website might impact site speed. This level of awareness will help you maintain your performance gains.
We suggest assigning a performance “owner” on the team who can — once a month or once a quarter — review the baseline performance established in your performance review and updates to help make sure your website’s performance isn’t drifting over time.
Read the rest of our web performance series:
- Slow Website? The 6 Most Common Factors that Affect Website Speed
- How to Measure Your Website Speed
- Core Web Vitals and Website Performance Impact on SEO
- Website Design Impacts on Performance: How Optimizing Images Can Help
- How Server and Network Speed Can Affect Website Performance
- What is Website Caching and Why is it Important to Marketers?
- Core Web Vitals and Website Performance Impact on SEO
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