Did you know that 40% of people will abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load? So…Do you know how long your own website takes to load? You could be losing out on potential customers if they’re leaving your site too early! Google tries to save users from this pain, and will reward fast-loading websites over slower ones - especially on mobile. Don’t miss out on customers because of your slow page speed!

So, What is Google Lighthouse?


Thankfully, Google can also help you to enhance your website’s page speed with Lighthouse. Once you’ve finished reading this blog, you will know exactly what Google Lighthouse is, what it does, and why it is such a vital tool for testing and improving the performance of your website.

Lighthouse is an open-source auditing tool, developed by Google, that provides insights into the performance of your webpage or web app. This key information can then be used to improve the quality of your pages, and reduce the amount of users leaving your site. Anybody can use it, as it is free and it works on any public webpage.

Google’s Lighthouse has been around since 2016 but has now become the standard Google page speed checking tool as Google focus more on mobile accessibility of websites. Statistics show that inevitably, more people are using mobiles to search, than desktops - making it more important than ever that your website loads quickly. You don’t have to be an expert in website or SEO audits to conduct, or even understand a Lighthouse report as it provides you with a clear answer, and you are able to identify any struggling areas, and create a plan for improvement. By making the mentioned changes to your website, you can already improve your chances of being ranked highly by Google, also resulting in enhanced speed, improved traffic, and more engaged audience.

If you aren’t using Google Lighthouse, or any other site checking tool, then you are missing out on a huge opportunity to improve your website, and to get more engaged traffic. Lighthouse checks your page’s performance, SEO, usability and accessibility; which are all factors that influence Google’s ranking of a website. Therefore by making the mentioned changes to your website, you can already improve your chances of being ranked highly by Google, also resulting in enhanced speed, improved traffic, and more engaged audience.

How Do I Get Started?


Google Lighthouse is versatile, as there are a variety of ways that you can choose to run it. These options include either:

  • Chrome DevTools - Audit the pages that require authentication, and easily read your reports.
  • From the command line - Automate Lighthouse to run via shell scripts.
  • As a Node module - Integrate Lighthouse into your continuous integration systems.

Simply enter the URL, wait for it to do it’s thing… then browse through the detailed report to see how your page performs and what you could improve. Each of the audits include explanations of why it is important to your sites quality, and how to fix any issues.

Running Google Lighthouse in Chrome DevTools is probably the simplest way, and we’ve explained how to conduct the audit below...

  1. Open or download Google Chrome for desktop.
  2. Visit the URL that you wish to audit.
  3. Open Chrome DevTools (Developer Tools in the list of More Tools) or hold Ctrl+Shift+I or press F12 if you are using windows.
  4. Click on the Audits tab.
  5. Select the Device and Audit Categories that you want to check.
  6. Click Run Audits.
  7. Wait for Lighthouse to check the website.
  8. View the report provided on each category.

Unfortunately, the report is produced in a JSON file which makes sharing it with colleagues difficult. However the easiest way around this, is to open the Lighthouse Report Viewer, upload your JSON file, and view it in the link. This can then be saved as HTML, and shared with your manager, fellow team members and developers in order to implement the changes.


What Does it Tell Me?


Google Lighthouse conducts checks in Performance, Accessibility, Best Practices, SEO and PWA. By running an audit in each of these areas, it breaks down the report to make it more digestible - and you are able to see which areas may be lacking in quality and which are good. 

Performance

This audit checks how your website is performing on a whole, and the key factor is speed. It breaks down how quickly a page loads; as the slower the page speed, the lower the performance score and ultimately the lower Google’s ranking of your website.

These actions are displayed in the order or what impact they have on the page speed. Suggestions in improving the performance of your website, might include reducing image sizes, link compression and additional optimisation of pages. 

This is a crucial area in terms of improving the quality of your site, because as mentioned earlier, page speed is a factor within Google’s ranking decision. If your site doesn’t load quickly, there is a huge chance that you’re losing potential clients; so use the suggested opportunities and recommendations to reduce this. 

Accessibility

The Accessibility audit, refers to how accessible and usable, aspects of the site are for visitors who have an impairment or disability. The recommendations, and suggestions will typically include making sure alt text is provided for all images, as well as other languages, a suitable colour contrast, legibility etc. 

Some aspects of accessibility aren’t always at the forefront of developer’s mind when building or designing a website, so it is important to review the suggestions from Google Lighthouse to see how this could be improved. 


Best Practices

This audit is focused around making sure that the website follows certain rules, and best practices of web design and development. Also ensuring that sites are kept up to date with the latest expectations, and are modernised. These recommendations aim at improving the overall user experience and performance of your site. 

Improvements could include having a HTTPS certificate, allowing users to paste passwords, avoid requesting notification permissions on page load and more, which will be added to over time as new practices arise.


Search Engine Optimisation

The SEO audit checks that your website is optimised for ranking in search results, and will take into account Google’s own Webmaster Guidelines for SEO. These checks will include meta descriptions that summarise page content, having a <title> element to help search engine users understand if the page they landed on is right for them; and many other SEO audits.


Progressive Web App

The PWA audit, checks different factors to ensure that it is reliable, fast and engaging. The factors will be tested, and if your PWA passes or fails, it will report on what improvements could be made. Google’s PWA checklist includes verifying that pages are responsive on tablet and mobile devices (which is vital!), ensure all app URLs load while offline, metadata is provided to prompt user to ‘Add to Home screen’ and many more items.


Start Using Google Lighthouse!


Sounds good doesn’t it?! Google Lighthouse is a great way for non-analytics-experts to test their website, and easily understand what actions should be taken to improve the overall website quality and in particular it’s performance. This Google tool, provides real-time site speed scores, and up-to-date recommendations; helping developers, marketers and business owners to implement the suggestions. 

The report features a score out of 100 for the different categories, which makes it easy to visualise and get a brief outline of what aspects need to be worked on. Therefore providing an easy way to understand how to improve your site, as for many people it’s hard to know where to start but also to know what actually matters. 

Share your report with your team (via Lighthouse Report Viewer as mentioned earlier) and start getting a greater understanding of your website’s highs and lows. This is the start of the process, so if you know where your site is lacking but don’t know how to fix it… that’s where we come in! Get in touch and we can make the changes to improve the quality and performance of your website. 


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