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Time to First Byte (TTFB): What Is It and How To Improve

Time to First Byte (TTFB): What Is It and How To Improve

When it comes to the page speed performance, most ecommerce websites focus on front-end optimizations for faster page loads. Nevertheless it is also important to consider the server-side, where your website initiates loading. This is where Time to First Byte (TTFB) has emerged as a critical metric that significantly impacts the success of online businesses. 

Any subtle delay in TTFB can play a pivotal role in shaping the overall user experience, influencing everything from user satisfaction to search engine rankings. In this guide, we explore the importance of TTFB in the context of ecommerce, ways to measure this metric, and strategies to enhance it for a seamless and efficient online shopping experience.

Contents

What is Time to First Byte (TTFB) 

TTFB measures the time it takes for a user’s browser to receive the first byte of response after requesting a page from the server. It gauges a web server’s responsiveness and precedes every other meaningful loading performance metric, such as LCP, CLS and INP.

In simpler terms, TTFB can be defined as the time spent waiting for the first response, measuring the latency of a round trip to the server. This is the time spent to send the request over and the subsequent time spent for the server to deliver the response. 

What is Time to First Byte (TTFB)? Three components

TTFB comprises of three components: 

  1. The time it takes to send the HTTP request.
  2. The time it takes to process the request on the server.
  3. The time needed for the server to send back the first byte of the response to the browser. 

This entire process, from requesting the page to the initial rendering, influences how quickly your webpage displays to your users.

Note:

TTFB is not a Core Web Vitals metric, so it’s not absolutely necessary that sites meet the “good” TTFB threshold, provided that it doesn’t impede their ability to score well on the metrics that matter.

Why Time to First Byte (TTFB) Matters in Ecommerce

Time to First Byte (TTFB) is crucial for ecommerce for many reasons. A higher TTFB indicates slower data retrieval from the server, which directly impacts the users ability to view your site content within a reasonable period of time. Google highlights a 32% increase in the likelihood of users leaving for every extra second your website takes to load, potentially leading to cart abandonment and lost sales.

Think with Google - Time To First Byte (TTFB) - Probability of Bounce

As a foundational Web Vital, TTFB precedes metrics like Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), and First Input Delay (FID). Hence a slow TTFB can negatively affect other Web Vitals. Monitoring TTFB alongside other web performance metrics provides a comprehensive view, aiding troubleshooting and facilitating insights for an improved user experience.

Optimizing TTFB contributes to overall page speed and Core Web Vitals scores. While TTFB isn’t quite synonymous with page speed, it influences site responsiveness towards the user. By reducing TTFB, you enhance your site’s speed, leading to decreased wait times, improved engagement, and reduced bounce rates.

How to Measure Time to First Byte (TTFB) 

Time To First Byte (TTFB) - Scoring

To measure TTFB for your ecommerce website, there are two main types of tools: lab tools and field tools.

Lab Tools

Lab tools, also known as synthetic monitoring tools, operate in a controlled environment, providing data based on predetermined device and network parameters. These tools simulate the browsing session of site visitors, allowing you to test features and debug issues before deploying changes to production. Examples of lab tools include Google Lighthouse and Chrome DevTools. They offer consistent and cost-effective simulated tests, but at the expense of real world user experience analysis.

Field Tools

Field tools, or real user monitoring tools, collect information from actual site visitors, working with field data based on real-user visits. This data reflects the diverse devices, network conditions, and geographic locations of your users. Unlike lab tools, field tools present reports based on the 75th percentile method, showing the distribution of real data from all users. Examples of field tools include Valido Web Score and Google Search Console.

Choosing between lab and field tools depends on your monitoring needs. This article on Google Web Vitals monitoring tools can help you compare and select the right tool for your specific use case.

What is a Good Time to First Byte (TTFB)?

As a rough guide, most sites should strive to have a TTFB of 0.8 seconds or less. It is also important to consider that PageSpeed Insights triggers a warning if your server response time is under 200 milliseconds.

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How to Improve Time to First Byte (TTFB)

There are a number of solutions and best practices that you can implement in order to optimize Time to First Byte (TTFB) for your ecommerce website. Here are nine recommendations:

Implement a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

This is a popular solution for reducing server response times, therefore it is always worth mentioning. CDNs distribute static content quickly by utilizing servers worldwide. This reduces network latency, enhancing user experience by serving resources from the closest server to the user.

Leverage Caching

Set up a cache layer using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to store and retrieve site resources efficiently. Caching reduces the need to download resources from the server for returning visitors, improving overall resource-loading speed.

Choose a Reliable Hosting Provider

Opt for a Managed Service Provider (MSP) with a fast host server. Consider dedicated hosting for quicker response times, prioritizing providers offering high availability, enhanced security, and responsive support.

Optimize Coding Practices

Ensure your website’s code is optimized for performance. Combining external CSS and JavaScript into a single file and keeping the web server’s software up-to-date can positively impact TTFB.

Monitor Server Loads

Regularly monitor server loads to prevent resource unavailability. You should ensure that measures are implemented to scale up resources as web traffic increases organically or during important sales events such as Black Friday.  Also, consider adding a load balancer to cache both static and dynamic content.

Reduce HTTP Requests

Always make sure that you analyze and minimize the number of HTTP requests that your website makes, as this helps improve other crucial web performance metrics as well. Remove unnecessary images, reduce file sizes, make JavaScript asynchronous, and combine CSS files to optimize TTFB.

Ensure Faster Server Response Time

It is worthwhile to intervene on CSS and JavaScript files and combine external ones. In some cases you can use small inline CSS and JavaScript files, putting them in the HTML file itself, so you don’t need external resources nor additional calls for them. Defer images to save bandwidth and reduce page load time.

Utilize Respond First, Process Later (RFPL) Cache 

Implement RFPL cache to show users a previously cached response immediately while allowing the server to process the request in the background. This minimizes user waiting time for a faster overall experience.

Database Query Optimization

Create indexes properly, retrieve only necessary data, and avoid functions on the left-hand side of operators. Minimize the use of correlated subqueries to improve database query performance.

Monitor and Improve Your Ecommerce Performance Today 

In our pursuit of optimizing Time to First Byte (TTFB) and ensuring a lightning-fast user experience, we’ve dived into the crucial factors influencing this metric. Now, it’s time to translate this knowledge into tangible improvements.

With Valido Web Score and its integrated tools for TTFB monitoring and optimization, you gain all the means to measure and optimize your ecommerce page speed. Beyond testing and monitoring, Web Score offers comprehensive insights, benchmarking features and recommendations to fine-tune your website performance metrics, ultimately enhancing the overall user experience.

Don’t let slow page loading impede the success of your online business. Explore the possibilities with Valido Web Score and elevate your ecommerce performance to new heights.

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