The internet, or rather its current form, has become a pivotal part of our lives. Almost all our activities, sources of information, and means of entertainment are dependent on this vast network that connects us.
While the technology has advanced and access to it has become better, our willingness to tolerate slow internet speeds has taken a downward trend. We need our internet to be faster than we thought to make our jobs easier. Catering to this minuscule tolerance is where the “Time to First Byte” comes into play.
Let’s take a deep dive and understand what this truly is.
What is Time to First Byte (TTFB)?
Time to first byte is a measurement used by common search engines to ascertain the responsiveness of a website to set up a connection and view the searched content on your device. In other words, it’s the time in milliseconds needed for the boomerang of your information request coming back to you with the first byte of said content.
This is used by popular search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing to determine your server connection speed. A smaller TTFB indicates a fast connection. A slower connection is a rage montage by the user.
Establishing a connection between your device and the host server involves a complex multi-step process. There may be an error at each potential point. This leads to an unwanted overall delay in receiving the information.
By knowing the TTFB, a developer can identify (with great accuracy) any potential problem, at any given step, that may hamper a swift transfer of data. This, therefore, allows them to tweak any possible delay, to provide a seamless and user-friendly web surfing experience.
Such an experience would bring back users, generate more traffic, and grow their website. It would also allow it to rank higher on search engines, and hence the cycle of benefit is now established.
3 Steps Where TTFB Gets Affected
The process can be affected commonly at 3 steps
1. The Step to Send the Host a Request
The process of information exchange begins with a request to obtain a desired content. This request depends on various factors such as your internet speed, any interruptions in your connection, any issues with the service provider, and the time taken to perform a DNS lookup.
These factors are entirely dependent on the user environment and not on the host.
2. The Step Where the Host Responds to the Request Data
Once the host receives a request, it must generate an appropriate response. Programs, web scripts, and other aspects of the website work together to generate this.
A developer can optimize this process by creating caches, using better hardware, and improving the code used to create the website.
3. The Step Where the Requested Data Reaches the Client
The final step is dependent on both the client and the host. Both the involved parties must have a well-established connection.
Accurate measurement of the TTFB requires a precise measurement of this step, where the client receives the first byte of data he requested.
What Are the Common Causes of a Delayed TTFB?
Frequently detected issues that can cause a slow TTFB include
- Client network issues
- Host server problems
- PHP settings
- A shared server
- Data storage and parceling issues
Another critical factor that requires particular attention is the use of dynamic content. Dynamic web pages are those that display content in real-time. They use databases to fetch data and stitch them together before showing it to you. This contrasts with static content web pages where the content is ready and is instantly displayed.
Dynamic content has all its information stored on databases or hard drives from where it extracts and pieces the data together. Every form of data, including the program itself, is stitched when the information is requested. This, therefore, adds additional time to get the first byte to reach the client. In the current era, most of the websites and other online content is dynamic in nature. Common examples of these are blogs and media websites.
What Is an Ideal TTFB?
Google suggests an ideal time of 200 milliseconds as the Time to First Byte. Any value beyond 500 milliseconds requires adjustments to enhance the user experience on the website.
Do you wonder what your website’s TTFB is?
Visit GTMetrix and place the URL you want to test. The result will show a website timeline graph. The leftmost value is your TTFB.
How to Reduce the Time to First Byte
Using cache service is the best way to reduce it.
Caches are temporarily stored data that aid the websites and web apps to load faster. This allows a chunk of information ready to be used immediately. At the same time, the remaining data can be downloaded, hence significantly reducing the TTFB.
An alternative to this is using shared data storage. A shared data storage distributes the bits of information among several servers. Now when you visit the website this data is downloaded from several servers in chunks. This again helps reduce the TTFB of your website.
Another improvement could be server modifications. If your server is not good, it will take time to respond. In such cases, you should change your vendor.
I hope that this article has covered all you need to know about TTFB. Improving your website’s TTFB is essential to the user experience. Don’t ignore it. If you feel it is difficult, contact a reputed developer who can help you resolve this issue.