Today, consumers and decision makers have more access to more information than ever before, which means they should be more informed, right? However, with so much information available, speed and time to message is more important than ever before. An underperforming website will turn away potential buyers quickly. Even if the content is great, if they don’t wait around to see it, it doesn’t matter! You spend a lot of time, energy and money on content creation. We’d like to help you make sure it gets seen. In this series of posts we will explore a great tool from Google called Lighthouse, why it should mater to you and how to use this tool to dramatically improve your site performance and improve your business.
What is Google Lighthouse?
Lighthouse, as its name implies, is an open-source, automated tool designed to help you understand where your site performance is lacking and how to improve it for a better user experience, a more engaged consumer, and ultimately greater business success.
Lighthouse is built right into Google Chrome Web Browser and you can run it in Chrome DevTools, from the command line, or as a Node module. It has audits for performance, best practices, accessibility, and progressive web apps. You give Lighthouse a URL to test, it runs a series of audits against the page, and then generates a report on how well the page did. Use the audit results as a guide on how to improve the page. Each audit has a reference document explaining why the audit is important, as well as how to fix it.
Site speed is all about perception and user experience. Speed in numbers means nothing if your site still “feels” slow. Loads of users around the world are on poor performing mobile connections of 3G or less. Even with lightning-fast 4G connections, a site can simply feel sluggish and slow which can have a devastating effect on your conversion. Shaving milliseconds off the time needed to load your site makes a world of difference.
While testing, Google Lighthouse simulates visiting your mobile site via a spotty 3G connection on a slightly underpowered device. Packets are lost to simulate real-world conditions as authentically as possible. After running the test, you’ll get a report with a score and actionable advice with issues to tackle.
Why is Lighthouse important?
While Lighthouse is open source, it connects directly to Google's ranking factors to determine how well-optimized your website is for mobile users, which means that you are getting some of the most important data to help increase your Google search rankings. Lighthouse is specifically targeted to worst case mobile users that may potentially have slower connection speeds and less screen size compared to desktop users.
These factors include crawling and indexing, mobile friendliness, and content quality. Many tools exist to detect performance & usability issues. However, Google Lighthouse is the most extreme. If you have high scores in Lighthouse (90 or above) then your other measuring tools are virtually guaranteed to have high scores as well. We recommend using multiple tools all setup in a test harness to continually monitor your sites on a continual basis. With content management systems, content authors can update websites instantly and content can be just as harmful to lighthouse scores as the html code. Therefore, you must take regular measurements (daily) of Lighthouse scores in order to ensure your websites remain performant.
What does Lighthouse Measure?
Lighthouse measures five categories:
- Performance – How fast is your website application?
- Best Practices – Are you following the best recommendations for security?
- Accessibility – How user friendly or easy to read is your website?
- SEO – How will you do in search rankings?
- Progressive Web App – Does your website work when user is offline?
In our series of posts, we will discuss these areas and show you how to optimize for the best results in each. We’ll share some of the lessons we have learned as we help our clients optimize their websites and give you access to some of our best practices. Stay tuned as we begin this series with a deeper dive on Performance next!