A few weeks back, I was using web.dev to test the performance of some of the pages on my site. To my surprise, I got extremely negative results – it appears that some script was taking too long to complete. On further investigation, I found that it was because of Cloudflare’s “Bot Fight” mode that I had enabled in my Firewall settings as shown here:
Like many others, I’m extremely concerned about the impact of bots on my site, and take extensive measures to block them from spamming my pages with costly requests. There are some whitelisted bots like Google’s and other search engines, and even Ahrefs. But most of the others will be subjected to computation intensive tasks that make it unprofitable to continue to scrape content.
This is great in a way, but it has the unwanted side effect of rendering performance tools like Google’s own web.dev unreliable – outright inaccurate in fact. And the same is true for other measurement tools like GTmetrix and PageSpeed Insights.
Moving Away from Server-Side Performance Measurement
Anyone who’s used these testing tools knows that they present a best-case scenario. Do you really think that an average person loads your entire side in 1.7 seconds? Including all the script executions and everything? No way! These sites don’t reflect any of the real-world conditions, especially when it comes to slow devices in countries halfway across the world.
A great example of this inaccuracy is the much talked about “Cumulative Layout Shift” or CLS as measured in actual conditions versus idealized tools. It’s only through end user measurement, that you can get an idea of what your true CLS is and take measures to lower it to zero. The same goes for the other metrics like the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) and the First Input Delay (FID).
3 Ways to Get Real-World Measurements
What we need is real-world measurement. And for that, there are three ways to do it.
1. Test On your Local Browser
These days, your browser can test your pages accurately. For example, in Chrome, there is a “Lighthouse” tab that you can use to generate the report as shown here:
In the screenshot above, I test the performance of my NameHero coupon page on WP-Tweaks. You can see that I get a pretty good score, thanks to extensive server caching. You can see the same thing on Firefox – though not in as detailed a manner as Chrome:
However, even this report is flawed. I’m testing in perfect conditions in a 1st world country with blazing fast Internet. Plus it’s only one same. What we need is large samples from people around the world in all sorts of conditions.
2. Historical Core Web Vitals Data
You can already get Core Web Vitals data from the Google Search Console. However, that data is delayed, and not very helpful. Instead, you can access the field data for the metrics using the tutorial I wrote earlier. This will allow you to test specific pages and see the percentages of people who pass the test.
3. Using Cloudflare Insights
Cloudflare has an interesting new tool that’s still in beta. You can enable it in the “Browser Insights” tab of the “Speed” section as shown here:
Calling it “Browser Insights” instead of merely “Analytics” or “Performance” highlights the fact that it specifically measures your site’s performance in various browsers in real-world conditions. As of now, it only measures a random sample of 10% of visits to your site. They might change this in the future, or allow it only for paid plans. Let’s see. In any case, it’s a much better and more up-to-date measurement of your site performance than anything I’ve seen so far. And the best part is that it requires no changes to your site. The backend script is added and loaded in a deferred manner, so it shouldn’t impact site performance.
Try it. You might get some useful information out of it!
It’s time we stopped relying on server rendering tools like GTmetrix and webpagetest.org to measure the performance of our websites. Instead, we need to go straight to the user and get their experience in as direct a manner as possible. These three methods above will help you do just that!
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!