There are many reasons why you should want your website’s pages to load quickly.
For one, it paves the way for an optimal user experience. It also helps improve your site’s search rankings with powerful search engines like Google.
Of course, understanding how fast your page loads comes down to consistent tracking and measurement. To do that, you’ll want to have the right tools in place to assist you in your research and improvement.
Google has multiple tools that can report data to help you comprehend your site’s speed and performance. Two of these tools include PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse. Let’s take a closer look at what each one does, the differences between them, and how you can use them to create a smooth and seamless website loading experience for you and your visitors.
What is Google PageSpeed Insights?
So what is Google PageSpeed Insights? PageSpeed Insights (also referred to as PSI) examines your web pages’ load times. It produces an update informing you how fast they load on various kinds of devices, including laptops, computers, and phones.
On top of the baseline data it provides you with, it also generates recommendations you can follow to improve how your site loads and performs. The data types it gives you include:
PSI is all about focusing on page speed: how fast your page is now, what’s preventing it from loading faster, and what you can do to optimize speed.
What is Lighthouse?
Lighthouse is a tool available to any Google Chrome user that can also help enhance your site’s speed and performance. It gives additional key performance indicators (KPI) for measuring your site other than page speed.
Some of those KPI include:
With all of those capabilities, Lighthouse paints a clear picture of just how well your site is performing in multiple crucial areas of page performance. If there’s a problem somewhere with your site’s performance, you’ll be able to get an acute understanding of it quickly with Lighthouse’s insights and data.
The difference between Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights
So what is the difference between Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights?
After reviewing the benefits of using both PSI and Lighthouse, they may appear to be similar. And in many ways, that’s true – both tools allow you to take a deeper look at how your site is performing in terms of page speed. That said, there are some important distinctions between them.
PSI looks strictly at loading speed. It’s in the name – the page speed insights it equips you with arm you with valuable data on how quickly your web pages can load. Lighthouse takes a more holistic view of your site’s performance data. Along with looking at page speed, it includes other factors such as SEO and accessibility.
Additionally, PSI’s data mix is made up of an amalgam of both lab data and field data. Lab data provides targeted, calculated insight into a single user, while field data use information culled from real-world users. Lighthouse does not use field data, tapping lab data to produce an update with recommendations for improvements.
When do you use Lighthouse vs PageSpeed?
The distinctions between Lighthouse and PSI are critical to understand, as you won’t be able to receive maximum value from either without knowing their capabilities and limitations. Now that you understand those distinctions, it’s time to define when to use each.
Let’s say you want to put yourself in the shoes of one of your site visitors. You want their perspective on just how long it takes your site to load when they access it. If this is the case, and no additional information is required for your business purposes at that time, PSI is the tool you want to use.
PSI is useful when your visitors’ main problem area is your site’s speed. PSI can perform a comprehensive audit of your site, helping you to establish a baseline understanding of a problem. If you do not like Google Chrome’s other tools for taking a closer look at your site’s speed, PSI may be the easiest solution to get the crucial data you want. PSI will also produce a report following your manual audit.
If you want to take a deeper analytical dive into your site’s all-around performance, beyond simple load time metrics, Lighthouse may have what you need. Lighthouse may be useful if you want to schedule audits to run on a regular basis. Also, if you require other insight beyond your page speed and the time it takes visitors to load,
Lighthouse produces a more comprehensive information experience. Lighthouse also has an API that can limit the number of releases you comply with – if there is one in particular that doesn’t align with your SEO and/or performance needs, you can restrict access to it.
One important consideration to keep in mind: the two Google-sponsored programs also work together, in concert. According to Google, PSI uses Lighthouse’s lab data combined with its own real-world field data. If you view Lighthouse’s reliance on lab data as a limitation, PSI gives you a gateway to more user-tested, real-world data. Lighthouse’s dataset is also more robust, however, which means that you can derive value from both tools.
Ultimately, Lighthouse’s integration with PSI makes them complementary tools that can both provide different kinds of value to your overall site speed improvement plan. Any analysis of your site’s performance should include discovery data that gives you a baseline to help improve upon. With both PSI and Lighthouse, you’ll have all the data you need to devise the right plan – plus additional data that will help you move past just your speed.