A fast WooCommerce store is better for customers and your business’s bottom line. But what does it mean for a WooCommerce store to be fast? Which WooCommerce performance metrics matter, and which are misleading or unhelpful?
The answers to these questions matter because metrics shape optimization strategies. Measure the wrong thing and you may spend time “optimizing” factors that have little effect on real-world performance and customer experience.
Performance can’t be expressed usefully as a single metric: a PageSpeed score alone isn’t a helpful guide. To fully understand your WooCommerce store’s performance, you should measure a range of factors.
DNS Lookup Time
DNS is important to the performance of a WooCommerce store, but it is often neglected by performance optimizers. DNS (the Domain Name System) translates web addresses like www.example.cominto IP addresses the internet uses to route data to a destination.
To the shopper, slow DNS requests look as if their browser has stopped working. It can’t make requests or load pages until it has the WooCommerce store’s IP address, so it does nothing.
DNS lookup times can be measured with tools such as DNS Speed Test. If you experience consistently slow lookup times, talk to your DNS hosting provider or consider moving to a provider who can offer better DNS performance.
Time To First Byte
Time To First Byte (TTFB) measures how long it takes for the browser to receive the first response to a request. It can be measured with tools such as GTMetrix.
Time To First Byte is often listed among the most important performance metrics, but store owners should be aware that TTFB can mislead. It is a useful metric because consistently long TTFB readings indicate a problem. But a fast TTFB doesn’t correlate well with a fast page load. Hosting providers can manipulate TTFB, and other factors have more impact on perceived performance.
Time To Interactive
Time To Interactive (TTI) measures the time it takes for a page to render and be ready to take user input. TTI is the most important metric for perceived performance — shoppers load your WooCommerce store’s pages because they want to see content, browse the catalog, put products in their cart, and check out. None of that is possible until a page is interactive.
TTI is affected by many different factors, including:
- The size of the page
- The number of requests to third-party domains
Google Lighthouse, which is part of the Chrome browser’s developer tools, includes an excellent TTI audit that helps site owners discover the cause of high TTI.
All things being equal, smaller web pages load more quickly. This is not a hard and fast rule, because all things are not equal. A 50 KB page may load more slowly than a 2 MB page if DNS lookups, network latency, and web server performance are not well-optimized.
Availability measures how reliably a WooCommerce store’s pages load when a shopper requests them. If the store fails to respond because it is overloaded or because of network issues, a bad shopping experience is guaranteed.
Availability is not often considered alongside other performance metrics, but it can be thought of as an intermittent performance issue: a WooCommerce store with availability issues performs badly, sometimes, for some of its visitors. A store that is very fast for 70% of page loads but fails to respond to 30% has serious performance problems.
Uptime measurement and notification services such as Pingdom are helpful for spotting availability and reliability issues. The solution is often to upgrade the WooCommerce hosting account or migrate to a more robust hosting provider.
More factors affect WooCommerce performance than I have mentioned here but focusing on these metrics will help you to develop an effective optimization plan.
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About Graeme Caldwell – Graeme is a writer and content marketer at Nexcess, a global provider of hosting services, who has a knack for making tech-heavy topics interesting and engaging to all readers. His articles have been featured on top publications across the net, from TechCrunch to TemplateMonster. For more content, visit the Nexcess blog and give them a follow at @nexcess.