I use tools like Firebug, YSlow and other extensions to find areas where I can improve my site’s speed.
Faster loading pages are always good. They make users happy, who don’t click off our sites as they wait for giant pages to load. They also make Google happy, who has begun to penalize slow loading sites.
Running YSlow locally is good, but the tests it performs are only run from your local machine. If you’re on the same network as your web server, as many of us are, your results will be skewed towards your very fast connection. Not every user at home has the network speeds we have.
So how do you get an idea of how your site performs around the world? Look to the cloud.
Yottaa was a finalist in this year’s Amazon Web Services start-up challenge, and basically, they offer a cloud-based YSlow using Amazon servers around the world. This is very helpful to find bottlenecks around the world or make sure you’re using a CDN that has nodes around the world, such as Akamai or CloudFront. From their site:
The reports Yottaa gives are very nice and and easy to understand. Here’s a global look at this blog’s speeds. Click for a larger version.
The only nag I had is that while I use a CDN for this site, YSlow and Yottaa don’t recognize it because I use a CNAME. Basically, media.highedwebtech.com points to my file bucket at Amazon instead of using a long Amazon Web Services address. I’d very much like to tell Yottaa that media.highedwebtech.com is really a CDN and to stop penalizing my scores.
The really cool thing about Yottaa is that you can create a login and create what they call Benchmarks, and track several sites on one page and monitor their progress over time. What a great tool if you’ve got sites on your campus on different servers, platforms, etc. This could be a very valuable tool.
I created this one, which is monitoring 22 institutions I could think of off the top of my head. I know I’m missing a ton, DM me or leave a comment and I’ll add yours in. I think it’s an interesting way to see how you stack up, technology-wise, to other institutions. This time, it’s about technical speed and good web practices instead of content or a pretty design.
You can sign up at the site to do more regular tracking of results over time. It’s a nice web-based, easy-to-use tool. I will be using it quite a bit going forward.