Page load time vs Response time: Which is the more useful website speed metric?

Jul 7, 2021 | Performance, Web Hosting, Website Maintenance

As a site owner, you must have checked the speed of your website at some point. Tools like Page Speed Insights and GTMetrix enable users to check the speed of a website.

Typically, you will see a ton of metrics on a typical website speed report. There are two web speed metrics that often stand out in such reports; the page load time and response time.

Generally, website owners view both metrics with the same lens. Both metrics signal the speed of your website.

While converting your WordPress site to an app with AppMySite, the response time of your website directly affects the speed of your app. Your website might have a good load time, but a poor response time would mean a slow app.

At this point, it is important to understand the difference between load time and response time.

What is page load time?

The page load time refers to the time it takes to download and present a webpage in a browser. Page load time covers the time it takes to load all the elements on the page. This includes the time it takes to load HTML, CSS & JS scripts, and third-party resources.

The time it takes between a user requesting a web page URL and the browser loading it completely is essentially the page load time.

Let’s break down the time duration of a load cycle:

  • The user requests a URL from a browser.
  • The request is sent to the website server.
  • The server loads the content and sends it to the browser.
  • The browser loads the page content for the user.

The time elapsed in this cycle is called the page load time.

What is page response time?

The page response time refers to the time it takes for a server to respond to a request. Unlike page load time, it doesn’t account for the time it takes to load all the elements on a webpage.

What does a typical response time cycle look like? The following points explain this in detail:

  • Looking up the DNS: When a user enters a URL, it takes to find an IP address associated with the hostname. If it takes a long time to resolve the host, it signals some issue with the DNS servers.
  • Connection time: This is the time it takes to connect to the website server. Generally, bad connection times are caused by network and routing issues.
  • HTTP redirects: In some requests, there are certain HTTP redirects and additional DNS lookups which further add to the response time.
  • First byte: This is the time it takes to transfer the byte of information. Servers under heavy load tend to have a high first byte time because they cannot transfer data quickly.
  • Last byte: This is the time it takes to get the final response from a server. A delay in last byte time suggests a lack of bandwidth on the website server.

These five points illustrate a typical response time cycle.

Factors affecting page load time and response time

While both these speed metrics sound the same, page load time and response time are affected by a different set of factors. The table below shows the different factors affecting page load time and response time:

Factors affecting page load time and response time

Page load time

Response time

Page weight: A page which has a lot of high quality images along with a number of third-rpaty scripts and code will naturally have more page weight. Larger page weight naturally increases the time it takes to load a page in a browser. 

Slow servers: A slow server reduces response time as it’s not designed to resolve client requests quickly. It is thus important to make sure the website host you choose for your website is designed to respond to requests in the most expedited time possible.

JS and CSS elements: These elements are loaded dynamically and typically slow down your website . The number and type of elements impact your load time directly. 

Low uptime: Uptime refers to the fraction of time a server is fully operational. Low uptimes means a lower probability of your website server being functional, thus leading to a less optimal response time.

User location: If users are closer to the location of your website server, the load time will naturally be lower. 

Low bandwidth: Servers not able to handle a large volume of requests at one time have a low response time, caused by a lack of bandwidth. 

Browser: The browser you’re loading the webpage in also plays a role in affecting the load time. 

Inability to handle traffic fluctuations: Your website’s traffic may fluctuate from time to time. If your server cannot handle fluctuating traffic loads effectively, your speed will go down.

Which metric predicts your app speed more accurately?

If you’re building an app on AppMySite using our iOS and Android app maker, your website speed directly impacts your app.

We’ve discussed two metrics of website speed in this article. Which one predicts the speed of your app more accurately?

Page load time is basically a measure of how fast your website loads in a browser. It does not accurately predict how your app might perform.

This is because the app you build connects directly with the website’s APIs. Your website’s response time is thus a much more accurate metric to predict the speed of your app.

Even if your page load time is optimal and your website loads fast in a browser, it doesn’t automatically guarantee a fast app. The response time of your website server to a typical request better predicts your app speed.

Get fast response times to WP Engine

wp engine

As a WordPress website owner, you must have heard of WP Engine at some point. It is easily the best hosting service for WordPress websites.

WP Engine is designed to provide seamless hosting services to WordPress websites across the board. Whether you’re looking at page load time or response time, WP Engine helps you get full points across every key website speed metric.

Trusted by 100K clients in over 140 countries, WP Engine has an impressive NPS score of 86. Every plan comes with a free CDN, SSL certificate, automatic backups, managed updates, DDoS mitigations, vulnerability scans, data encryption, and more.

The following points explain the offerings in more detail:

  • Security infrastructure: WP Engine’s security program is modelled on the ISO 27001 framework. It blocks 1.5 billion cyber attacks every month.
  • Fastest amongst fast WordPress hosts: The HTTP Archive and CRuX report shows that WP Engines has the highest percentage of websites with load times under 200ms.
  • One-click staging: Simple dev tools that enable you to get your website live in a short span of time. You can also leverage rapid testing mechanisms to make development smooth.
  • StudioPress Themes: Every plan comes packaged with access to over 36 premium StudioPress themes designed for Gutenberg editor & WooCommerce, and integrated with HubSpot.

In conclusion

Page load time and response time are both crucial metrics that predict the speed of your website to a great degree. This article compares both these metrics in detail and which predicts the speed of your app more accurately.

You cannot build your own app without considering how you’re going to make it fast and seamless. On AppMySite, the response time of your website directly impacts your app speed. The best way to speed up your app is to thus make sure your website has an optimal load time.