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Measuring Website Response Time

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Last updated May 16th, 2010 by Victoria Pal in Tech

Measuring response timeThe response time of a webpage is the time elapsed from the moment the user requests a URL, until the request page is fully displayed. This process can be separated in to 3 logical units - transmission, processing and rendering.

Transmission consists of the time to transmit the user's request and receive response from the server.
Processing is the part of the operation where the server has to process the request and generate the response.
Rendering is client side operation and consists of the time needed by the client machine to display the response to the user.

There are several approaches to measure website response, involving client-side testing, server-side measurement and remote monitoring from different network locations.
Each of these methods has its advantages. Which one you should use is completely up to you and your needs.

Server-side measurement

The server-side measurementis quite accurate, but it has its limitations when it meets proxy servers, which are quite common these days. While server-side monitoring can be quite accurate there are a lot of issues with its configuration and, being a server-side application, it will go down with your site in some of the cases, leaving you with little to do. This approach is suitable for collecting visitor information, but it lacks some of the functionality and additional features which the remote monitoring has to offer.

Client-side testing

The client-side testing gives the most accurate perception of what your website's visitors are experiencing, however it is limited to your network/geographical location and most often it is not the universal experience every Internet user has with your site. There are several tools to help you test your website's response time. Some of them are client-side scripts and there are of course more advanced tools such as Yslow from Yahoo! and Page Speed from Google. These two tools are best used with Firefox and are additions to the much used Firebug. Client-side testing gives you first-hand information about the users' experience, but it can be time consuming and it gives you information for your site's visibility from only one location. If your audience is local this might not be such a problem but it is not suitable for online retailers and service providers serving multiple geographical locations.

Remote monitoring

The remote monitoring is a recurrent test performed by one or several remote locations at a time, able to provide accurate information about your website's response time. Various tests can be performed from different network locations, simulation users' experience from different geographical locations. This is the product WebSitePulse offers and finds to be accurate and easy to implement to any site on the Internet. Its many applications are backed up with a flexible reporting system and emergency support.

Victoria Pal

She doesn't like queuing (particularly at Wimbledon). Likes traveling, tennis and reading. Loves working as a Project Manager at WebSitePulse.

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