Understanding Site Speed and Core Web Vitals with Shawn O’Neill from Speed Sense

This interview is available on Youtube and as a Podcast.

Shawn O’Neil from Speed Sense is an expert on website speed. In this podcast, we discuss how you know if you have a website speed issue and how to build an engaging website experience

Why is site speed important?

Website speed is important for three reasons:

  1. Conversion rate.  Faster sites give a better user experience leading to lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates
  2. SEO.  Site speed is a ranking factor for Google natural search and is measured by their core web vitals metrics
  3. Return on ad spend.  Sites which convert better will give a higher return on ad spend.

How do you know if you have a site speed problem?

You can identify if you have a site speed issue by scanning your site using the popular site speed using a tool such as Google page speed. This will give two categories of metrics

  • Real user metrics (RUM).  How users are experiencing your site
  • Synthetic.  An estimated speed metric

The metrics given on the Google page speed tool will give benchmark for the site speed. If the major pages on the site pass core web vitals then that is the minimum benchmark for judging your site speed is acceptable.

Another good measure is to compare your site to your competitors.

What are Core Web Vitals

Google has chosen the metrics in the core website vitals as they are a good proxy for user experience.  They fall into three groups:

  1. Is the page loading
  2. Is the page responding quickly
  3. Is the visual presentation stable

Whether you will pass core web vitals will depend on (amongst other things) our technology stack (e.g. Shopify, Magento) and the number of applications which are loaded with the page.  A common problem is below the page functionality e.g. tracking is slowing down the site.

Choosing a fast theme

Though it is an imperfect measure, when you are choosing a new theme, test it using Google page speed. This is imperfect as the theme demo will not have any user metrics.

Top tips for building a fast engaging experience

  1. Priorities things that are the primary purpose of that page. For example, on a product page, this will be the product details.  This data should load before services like reviews, social sharing etc.
  2. Preload your largest contentful paint (LCP) image.
  3. Third-party tags in tag manager should be loaded after the main page content.
  4. Image size.  Compress your images properly.  Max 300kb/image.



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