Lately a number of people have been complaining to me about how their websites are not passing tests that are performed by testing sites. These test sites load your page and go through a number of so called tests to see if your site has been optimized for fast loads, SEO and proper use of html.
The first thought that came to mind was there are probably a bunch of middle management people out there running sites through these testing services without the knowledge of what the results really mean or if any changes should be made.. let alone how to make the changes if they could be made.
The fact is most of these services are useless.
The only ones I like are the ones that will show you a screen shot of what your site looks like in a variety of different browsers. This is sometimes useful when you are setting up your margins and borders in your css file because not all browsers react the same. If you can make a slight alteration to your design to make sure everyone sees your menus correctly then that is a useful service.
One such useless site I was pointed to by a user is www.webpagetest.org now I am not saying it is without all merit. The site will give you a lot of information about different parts of your site and if you are looking for that specific information then you should use this site.
However lets look at some of the tests and how their fails are meaningless.
Although it may seem that I am singling out this one service they all perform the same tests and have very similar results. I have not seen one including google’s that really spits back a lot of useful data for designers or site managers.
First is image testing. When the test site loads your site it reads the optimization of your images any jpg image with a quality level higher then 50% or any png image higher then 8 bit will cause a failure in the test. This is basically useless because sites that need to provide good quality images or even images that have readable text and detail are all going to fail the image test.
Again this is a fail if you use any outside banner advertising. Each banner that is rotated will cause a fail but along with this test you may have features that are constantly updated. You could test a website with static html and still come out a fail.
GZIPing of Text
The fact that a testing service would cause a fail just because you do not use compression of your text is a complete failure. GZIP is a useful way to compress a large amount of data but when you are talking about maybe 100k of text at most the idea that even a dialup modem would have trouble loading the page vs any video or multimedia content on the page is disturbing.
Like I said there are useful reasons to make use of these services but if you want to get an idea of how your site is optimized you would really need to turn off all of your advertising before running the test.
More so understanding the results is definitely top priority when using a testing service like this. If the site comes back with a bunch of fails you should understand why the test site is labeling them as fails and then move on if the results are out of your control or meaningless.
Is it really a problem that your background images don’t have a title and alt text assigned to them?
Obviously any site can use improvement but don’t get hung up on testing services. Use them to your advantage but don’t take them as a final word on how well your site is running.