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Microservices Expo: Article

Top Seven Website Performance Indicators to Monitor

Whatever the reason for a website crashing or slowing down, it’s bad for business and for your online reputation

Poorly performing websites, like Twitter's recent fiasco with Ellen's selfie, are a constant source of irritation for users. At first you think it's your computer, or maybe someone on your block is downloading the entire "Game of Thrones" series. But, when nothing changes after refreshing the page once or twice, you give up, mutter under your breath, and move on.

Whatever the reason for a website crashing or slowing down, it's bad for business and for your online reputation. According to a survey conducted by Consumer Affairs, a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. And, if your website can't load fast enough (in 400 milliseconds), then most of your customers will search for another website.

Understanding how your website performs under pressure is extremely important for any company. But, it can be daunting trying to figure out what website performance indicators you should monitor.

We have compiled a list of the top seven website performance indicators we believe to be important. Make sure to track each of these to guarantee a great customer experience.

Top Seven Website Performance Indicators

1. Uptime
Monitoring the availability of your website is without a doubt the single most important part of website monitoring. Ideally, you should constantly check the uptime of your key pages from different locations around the world. Measure how many minutes your site is down over a period of two weeks or a month, and then express that as a percentage.

2. Initial Page Speed
Consumers' behavior and tolerance thresholds have changed. Now, people who browse a website expect it to load in a blink of an eye. If it doesn't load quickly, they will leave and turn to a competitor's site. You can check your website's speed using Ping requests (measuring the time it takes from your location until the website starts loading) and loading time measurements, for example, measuring the time it takes to download the source code of a web page. Note that this measurement reflects the time it takes for the raw page to load, but that isn't the complete user experience. For that, you must measure...

3. Full Page Load Time including images, videos, etc.
This performance indicator is usually called End User Experience testing. It's the amount of time it takes for all the images, videos, dynamically-loaded (AJAX) content, and everything else seen by the user to pop up on the their screen. This is different than the time it takes for the raw file to download to the device it's going to display on (as indicated above).

Both full page load time and page speed are important to measure because you can employ different strategies to optimize for both of them. Images, videos, and other static content can be cached on separate, dedicated systems or content delivery networks (CDNs), while dynamic content might need dedicated servers and fast databases. Knowing how your website behaves as it scales will help you put the right infrastructure in place.

4. Geographic Performance
If you are a globally active company or if you have consumers from different parts of the world, understanding your geographical performance - which is your website's speed and availability in different locations - is extremely important. Your ultimate goal is to make sure your website is easily accessible to all visitors regardless of their location to give them an excellent customer experience.

Many companies ignore this factor, only testing performance in familiar geographies. At a minimum, use your website analytics as a guide to put testing in place that shadows the locations from which your visitors are accessing your site.

5. Website Load Tolerance
Do you know how many visitors it takes to considerably slow down your website? It's an important indicator to understand because if you are running aggressive marketing campaigns or are picked up by the press you might be in a situation where your website is flooded with visitors in a matter of minutes.

Regularly run stress tests and compare the results to your visitor numbers at peak times. Once you understand how much load your website can handle then you can adjust your infrastructure to meet the demand. Look for those "tipping points" so you won't be caught by surprised when traffic spikes.

6. Web Server CPU Load
CPU usage is a common culprit in website failures. Too much processing bogs down absolutely everything on the server without much indication as to where the problem lies. You can prevent web server failures by monitoring CPU usage regularly. If you cannot install monitoring software on your web servers due to hosting arrangements or other constraints, consider running a script that publishes the values from available disk space and CPU load to a very simple html page.

7. Website Database Performance
Your database can be one of the most problematic parts of your website. A poorly optimized query, for example, can be the difference between a zippy site and an unusable one. It's important to monitor your database logs closely. Create alerts if the results contain certain error messages, or deliver results outside of expected norms. Use the built-in capabilities of the database to see which queries are taking the most time, and identify ways to optimize those through indices and other techniques. Most importantly, monitor the overall performance of the database to make sure it's not a bottleneck.

No Downtime = Happy Customers
If you can monitor all seven of these metrics, you should have a good idea of how your website performs and what needs to change when it doesn't perform well. Minimizing website downtime will keep your customers happy. If you have any questions on these metrics or load testing let me know.

More Stories By Tim Hinds

Tim Hinds is the Product Marketing Manager for NeoLoad at Neotys. He has a background in Agile software development, Scrum, Kanban, Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Testing practices.

Previously, Tim was Product Marketing Manager at AccuRev, a company acquired by Micro Focus, where he worked with software configuration management, issue tracking, Agile project management, continuous integration, workflow automation, and distributed version control systems.

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