Do you regularly pull up your website to check on how it’s performing? That’s a good practice to have—it helps you catch potential issues faster. But your experience of your website isn’t necessarily the same as that of other people visiting it.
A number of factors can influence how the same website works for different people—where they’re located, what their network is like, or what device they use—to name a few.
To really understand your website’s performance on a more comprehensive level, you need some way to gain visibility into how your website works across different use cases and scenarios.
One tool that can help you gain insight into that is the Chrome User Experience Report.
What is the Chrome User Experience Report?
The Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) provides website speed data based on the experiences of Google Chrome users. For Chrome users that have usage statistic reporting enabled and who have opted into syncing their browser history across devices, Chrome tracks a few main metrics that provide a picture of how long a website takes to load.
The data is anonymized, but you can see it broken down by country, device, and internet connection type. That can help you better understand how actual users are experiencing your website, and diagnose any potential issues with your website speed or Core Web Vitals.
The Chrome User Experience Report is just one of a number of different speed testing tools available. So what makes this one worth considering?
The main difference between this and other tools is that the CrUX uses field data—e.g. data collected in the field, from the experiences of actual users—whereas most website speed tools use lab data, which is collected from tests performed by people or technology in a more controlled setting.
The CrUX data shouldn’t be treated as a replacement for what you learn from other tools. Rather, it’s a good way to supplement the rest of your data. Combining Chrome user data with other website speed sources provides a more accurate overall picture of your website’s performance.
How to Access the Chrome User Experience Report for Your Website
Google provides Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) data in three main ways:
1. The Page Speed Insights tool
This is the easiest way to access CrUX data, but it only provides a snapshot of the information Chrome collects. When you enter a URL into the Page Speed Insights tool, you’ll see CrUX data under the Field Data section.
If your website’s new, or on the smaller side, there’s a chance Chrome won’t have enough data to provide a Chrome User Experience Report for your site. In that case, in lieu of this section, you’ll see a message saying: “The Chrome User Experience Report does not have sufficient real-world speed data for this page.”
The lack of data today doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to take advantage of Chrome User Experience data though. Make a note to check back occasionally, and you may be able to gain access to the report down the line as your website grows in popularity.
2. The Google Cloud platform
If you have a bit more technical know-how, you can gain deeper access to the insights included with CrUX data by using Google BigQuery within the Google Cloud platform. This method requires basic SQL knowledge, so will only make sense for some readers.
Google provides step-by-step instructions on how to access the data, and create data visualizations from it in order to better understand the information provided.
3. CrUX Dashboard in Data Studio
Using the CrUX dashboard within Data Studio allows you to tap into the data in more depth than the Page Speed Insights tool, but doesn’t require as much technical know-how as using the Google Cloud platform.
You can find a good breakdown of step-by-step instructions on setting up your account and creating a report here.
The report will include a number of pages that each focus in on a particular metric or two in more detail. And the tool allows you to slice and dice the data based on specific parameters, such the type of devices users accessed it on.
5 Insights the Chrome User Experience Report Reveals
Website speed seems like it would be a pretty straightforward metric. You want to know how long it takes your site to load, and you may assume there’s one simple answer to that question.
But what the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) report reveals is that the question actually has a few different answers. And understanding each of them matters to gaining a clear idea of what people encounter when they land on your website.
Specifically, the CrUX report provides five main metrics related to site speed.
1. First input delay
This is the time between when a person clicks a link, and when the click registers so the site knows to load. If time passes between when a person clicks and anything at all happens, they may assume the website’s broken or the screen is frozen. That definitely creates a negative experience, and increases the chances that a visitor will click away.
2. First paint
First paint is the first moment anything at all loads on the page, even if it’s something minor—like the first bit of background color on the page. While it’s just a start and doesn’t necessarily provide the visitor with any useful information, first paint lets them know that the page is in the process of loading. They’re that much more likely to stick around if they know the process is starting, as long as it doesn’t take too long from there.
3. First contentful paint
This is the first time any content loads to the screen. Whatever text or image shows up first is what’s measured with this metric. This is when the page first really gives your visitor something to look at that (hopefully) makes staying on the page worthwhile.
4. DOM content loaded
This is the point where all of the html for your page is showing up on the screen. So all your text, most of your images, and much of your page’s style (although not your page’s CSS). At this point, your page should be usable and look pretty close to complete for your visitors.
And this, finally, is when all of your page’s content has loaded. This is the ultimate goal for the page, but it may not be the most important metric on the list for your website. In many cases, your page will look close enough to done to satisfy visitors and be plenty functional before you reach this point. So it’s a good metric to have, but may not need to be your main focus.
The time between these metrics may seem minimal, but even a fraction of a second between each website loading milestone can make a surprising difference in how visitors perceive your website. And a slow loading time—for any of these milestones—can negatively influence your search engine rankings. This is a rare area of life where a split second really counts.
Use What You’ve Learned
Any website analytics you have can tell you something useful about your website. But none of them are worth much if you don’t do anything with the knowledge you gain.
The data from the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) report is no different. It reveals to you in great detail how quickly your website is loading for visitors, how that varies based on certain conditions, and if some parts of the page are showing up considerably faster than others.
You can use that information to figure out the best ways to speed up your website. Use the data to analyze whether specific elements on the page are slowing its loading time, and consider removing them or changing how they work. Keep an eye on the report over time, so you’ll be sure to notice if there’s a change that affects how people interact with your site.
The CrUX data is one more tool you have to better understand the user experience for your website, so you can make sure you’re delivering an exceptional experience. But that only works if you take time to review the data, and put it to use.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.