November 12, 2021

The Quest for Website Speed: And the winner is…

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Yesterday we set the stage for our great speed test of server provisioning software on two dedicated virtual hosts, Digital Ocean and Vultr. We used the same website install for all six tests to ensure the website files were not a factor. We also tested with and without caching plugins. 

So who won?

First, let’s set the stage with a few more terms.

Glossary

Time to First Byte: This is the amount of time it takes for the server to respond. 

Largest Contentful Paint: LCP is the time it takes for the largest piece of content to render on a user’s screen.

Fully Loaded Time: Everything is loaded and displayed. 

There are many more stats and metrics, but we were looking simply for the host and server software impact on the website load times. The question becomes, what effect does hosting alone have on speed. There are many other factors; website files like CSS, Scripts and Images can dramatically impact the website speed, but how much does hosting play a role?

I make no qualms that I think you have to balance page speed scoring with the user experience you want to have. We can create the world’s fastest website according to page speed scoring, but it will look like it is straight out of 1995. 

The Results

Drum roll, please. The definitive winner of this testing was Cloudways running a Vultr high-frequency server. 

The stats vary with each test, but we saw as much as a half-second decrease in the largest contentful paint on average. We also saw a 50% decrease in time to first byte from 867ms to 396ms. 

We tested these results again with a blank install and the default WordPress theme with similar results. 

The reality is, these changes are almost invisible to the human eye, but they might matter to the page speed authorities. Making this move did help increase our scores, and there was an increase in apparent speed. But all these services scored much higher than typically shared hosts, and the winner is likely subject to change in the future as companies change their services on offer. 

Hosting is Complex

The truth is, selecting fast hosting and getting it set up isn’t for the novice website designer/admin. There are a lot of factors to consider and technology to understand. At The Sky Floor, we pride ourselves on providing a complete experience and expertise – we can design your website, build the site, and get you deployed on hosting that meets your needs. 

You don’t need a designer who passes designs to a developer who sends the files to IT to deploy the website; we can do that all.

If you’d like help decoding the hosting puzzle, get started here with a free 30-minute consultation. There is zero pressure to move forward, and I guarantee there will be actionable information that will be yours to keep for free. 

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