When we run up against the "World Wide Wait," we tend to think that we’re waiting for the requested page to download. But there is something that happens before the download even begins. The server on which the requested site resides must acknowledge the browser’s request to view the site. In other words, if this were a telephone call, response time would be the number of rings before the telephone is picked up.
Slow response time can be just as annoying to potential customers as five, eight, or 10 rings. To avoid turning visitors off, learn how response time is measured and how it can be improved.
How Response Time is Measured
Response time is a product of server performance. Therefore, the tools that track your server activities are the tools that measure response times. Your ability to access and interpret response-time data will depend upon your server model, i.e., where your site resides.
What Your Web Host Can Tell You. If you use a hosting service, response-time measurements should be part of the data available to you. In fact, aggregate response-time reports for hosting services, whether issued by the service or an independent reviewer, are a great way to evaluate a potential host.
Make sure your host or host candidate compares favorably in side-by-side response-time reviews, and that they can make response-time figures for your own site available to you on demand.
Tools You Can Use to Measure Response Time. Unless you’re pretty adept at scripting languages, you’ll want to leave this one to the hosts and the third-party services. If you’re up for a technical challenge, you can follow the instructions given in "Web Performance Measuring Tools and Services," a respected book on the subject, for creating a response-time monitoring application.
How Third-Party Services Can Help. When it comes to measuring response times, a monitoring services can be a savvy investment. Most such services would present complex server-response data to you in an easy-to-understand (usually graphic) interface. Now many free tools are available online. What’s more, you can often measure your site against others in your industry to see how your response times compare. Click here to access some free tools and resources to check your site’s response time.
Troubleshooting Response Time Problems
You know the feeling of dialing a telephone number and then listening it ring after ring on the other end. With every ring you become more tempted to hang up, especially if you’re calling a business. Likewise, potential customers grow more likely to surf over to the competition with every second they spend waiting for your page to respond to their browser.
So if your response time is routinely more than one to two seconds (industry average is around 0.8 seconds), you need to take steps to reduce the wait.
Pinpoint Server Problems. If your response time is not what it should be, you almost surely have encountered server problems. You will need to tackle the situation with the help of your in-house server expert or your hosting service. If you detected slow response times through a third-party service, your Web team or hosting service may not have the same data.
Make sure they have the response-time reports, then follow up with reports from the same third-party source to make sure your problem has been remedied.
Prepare for Traffic Fluctuations. – Traffic spikes don’t always cause a complete site failure; sometimes they just make the server respond more slowly to requests. Though the effect is different, and slightly less severe, you’ll want to review the traffic considerations presented in conjunction with downtime for possible sources of response-time slowdowns.
Troubleshooting response time issues is well worth the effort. If customers cannot access your site quickly and easily, they will be much less likely to purchase your product.