Dev Depot: Pingdom Tools, Feeding the Need for Speed

Stephen Yagielowicz

Savvy web developers know that you can’t just fly by the seat of your pants when it comes to benchmarking and optimizing a website’s performance — you need the right tools in order to do the job — such as Pingdom Tools (www.pingdom.com), which enables users to test a website’s speed, DNS health and more, easily and for free.

Among its offerings, the Pingdom Website Speed Test allows users to enter a URL to test the load time of the specified page; receiving analyses that identify any bottlenecks, because according to Pingdom’s publisher, nobody likes a slow website.

Pingdom Tools allow users to examine all parts of a web page, including the HTML, JavaScript and CSS files, plus images, etc. and compares the code to best practices from Google Page Speed to identify specific tips for speeding up your website.

“We built this Website Speed Test to help you analyze the load speed of your websites and learn how to make them faster. It lets you identify what about a web page is fast, slow, too big, what best practices you’re not following, and so on. We have tried to make it useful both to experts and novices alike,” explains a publisher’s rep. “In short, we wanted it to be an easy-to-use tool to help webmasters and web developers everywhere optimize the performance of their websites.”

Pingdom Tools allow users to examine all parts of a web page, including the HTML, JavaScript and CSS files, plus images, etc. and compares the code to best practices from Google Page Speed to identify specific tips for speeding up your website.

Performance history is savable for later review, allowing changes to be evaluated over time and shared with colleagues or web hosts for further analysis.

“All tests are done with real web browsers, so the results match the end-user experience exactly,” the rep notes. “We use a bunch of instances of Google’s Chrome web browser to load websites, record performance data, and so on [with tests performed by using] dedicated Pingdom servers.”

Several options are available when conducting the speed test, including checkboxes to save and make public the test results (a list of recently tested URLs along with links to the test results appears below the URL input box — yours will be there too, unless you choose otherwise). These test results include a performance grade of x/100, the number of server requests the page performed, its load speed and overall page size. Finally, a rank of the tested site against other tested site is established. Other speed test options include the ability to perform the analysis at data centers in either Amsterdam, or Dallas, Texas.

Drilling down further into the test results, each file that a server request is made for is shown along with its size, listed in its load order by default. File size, type, URL and load times are also selectable as listing options. A switch allows for even more details, such as request and response headers; containing cache, compression information, and other data.

The site’s performance grade is an aggregation of individual performance parameters, which includes specific recommendations based on these test results, such as minimizing the size of requested files so that they fit into a single packet; to leverage browser caching so that common resources are not repeatedly loaded and removing any query strings from static resources (those resources linked with a “?” in the URL); and to serve static content from a domain that is not using cookies. Other advice includes minimizing redirects; specifying a “Vary: Accept-Encoding” header and cache validators; and avoiding bad file requests that can cause various server errors.

Pingdom Tools provide insights in to how your site is performing. Try it for yourself.

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