Much like baking macarons, replacing heart valves, and picking people up on Tinder, when it comes to the success of your website, the devil is in the details. While high-level strategy will always be important for broad audience capture, ground-level technical execution—milliseconds, clicks, bits and bytes—is often the difference between sailing over ceilings and having the rug pulled out from underneath you.
There has never been a time in which it was easier for an online business to die by a thousand cuts; from user impatience, to competitor cunning, and all the way to Google black-box-quality-marshalling, there are more than a few ways for a good site to go bad, and in turn, a business to go bust. Site speed, tags, linkbacks, metadata, SEO, security…
The biggest issue is that most people don’t know what to look for, how to look for it, or even how to interpret what they’ve found when they’re done with the finding. Which is why the crew here at SnapMunk was pretty excited when we got a chance to check out DareBoost and their website analysis, monitoring and optimization tools.
The first item of appeal was the starting price point: Free, for most features and several comprehensive reports. Then, from about $200 for a whole year, DareBoost offers anyone from a one-man-WordPress-junkie to an enterprise IT outfit a suite of tools to help test how well their website performs and scores on all the most critical dimensions (SEO, Security, etc.), how fast it is, and how it compares to other similar sites.
Diving into a bit more detail, here were our highlights of the DareBoost product offering…
Analysis of Overall Website Quality
Here’s the reality: when your site is suffering with SEO and organic adoption, it’s rarely just one thing you need to optimize. At SnapMunk, we once saw an unexpected, seemingly unprovoked dip in organic traffic. It wasn’t until we did a few technical audits with a few “experts” that we had compiled a (potentially) comprehensive list of tasks to take us to resolution.
Overall, it was a helpful exercise, but looking back on it, a better starting point would have probably been something like DareBoost for a fast, efficient, impartial, always-up-to-date analysis. Also, the summaries are both easy to understand and thorough (to the line of code) as all hell.
You start by just entering a URL. Then you can define testing options like Mobile vs Desktop, which browser, and from which location on the planet you’d like to simulate the visit (Hong Kong, Paris, Seattle etc.).
If you pitched a few extra bucks above zero and have access to the advanced options, you can also do things like define the bandwidth with which you’d like to simulate the visit experience, whether or not there is AdBlock active, any 3rd party domain connections that should be blacklisted (e.g., you may want to see how your site performs when connectors to Facebook.com are and are not active), whether the visit was driven by form submit carrying over a particular field value, and more.
Once that’s all set, the system starts running its magic. About 60 seconds later, you get a report.
First, there’s some handy high level stuff on loading times:
But then the party really gets stared with the itemized breakdown of issues, improvements and successes.
The test really covers all the bases; browser rendering, quality, SEO, security and more.
And again, the real value—whether you’re well versed in the weeds or you think “CSS Selector” is the name of a Navy ship—is in the well-written, granular explanations of the findings.
Of course, it’s not all bad news. The Quality & Performance report is truly helpful in both tactical and educational senses, and it’s a create way to not only figure out a path forward but evaluate your path leading up to today.
Ongoing Website Monitoring
Here’s another reality: when it comes to the web, few things stay the same long. That goes for the technology facilitating visits to your site, and, assuming that you are maintaining a valuable online presence, the very content and experience you are providing to your prospects, customers and users. That being the case, without the right technology, it can get difficult and time-consuming to track your site’s quality over time, and know exactly where and why certain shifts occurred.
One great feature is the ability to set custom benchmarks so that you are well aware of when your site is ready to run a marathon or sleeping off a hangover.
Arguably a more valuable feature (depending on how much work and remembering stuff you like to do) is their email alerts and quick comparisons; DareBoost makes it very easy to know when something has gone wrong, and just how relatively wrong it has gone. All user has to do is open their emails.
Side-by-Side Comparisons of Sites (Competitors & Internal)
No matter how mature and sophisticate we may get, deep down, we all love us some Who Wore It Better? And when it’s your business in one of the outfits, the opportunity for side-by-side assessment very quickly goes from entertaining to invaluable. Realistically, what is an assessment of your website if not in the context of “Where my visitors may go instead”?
The summary is simple to digest, and covers a ton of valuable information; what kinds of plugins are running on each page, key load times, overall speed, and simultaneous screen-load video replays to name a few.
Another great incidental feature of this is that you don’t even have to use it to snoop on competitors. Technically, you can enter any domains you want and use it simply as an industry analysis and broader benchmarking tool. Same goes for the awesomely thorough site quality analysis above.
The Need for Speed
The average internet user is willing to wait about 1 nanosecond for anything to load or transfer, whether it’s a clothing catalogue, a CIA document with a Russian filename, or the always-at-risk-of-being-perceived-as-replaceable content on your website. DareBoost is well aware of the impatience epidemic, and to help you boost your immunity to it, they have some great options for measuring critical velocity metrics.
For the more geek-inclined, there is the classic Waterfall view of the calls made on page load, as well as their relative start time, duration, and completion time.
But for the more high-level-but-still-detail-oriented among us, there is the SnapMunk favorite Playback of the page load, including the frame-by-frame view underneath the raw video:
You see not just how long stuff takes to load, but on the most granular level, what is loaded when from the average visitor’s perspective. Paired with the Waterfall report, it’s just technical enough that you can easily spot technical inefficiencies, and on its own, it’s just simple and abstract enough that you can easily spot broader user experience landmines, and potential site design strategy shortcomings .
You probably could have predicted that DareBoost was going to keep up a killer pace of innovation; the company only started in 2014 and already has a product this sophisticated and elegant. Since launch, they have made a number of enhancements and one that particularly caught our eye was their User Journey Monitoring.
Essentially, rather than just assessing performance from the perspective of a “visit to a page”, DareBoost also allows you to evaluate the experience on your site from the perspective of a “journey through your site”. With this kind of view, you see your site as your visitors truly do: facilitating a several-step scenario.
The product allows you to define custom checkpoints and events, evaluate metrics at the level of the entire scenario and the individual steps within it, see a video of the entire thing, and easily identify the events that have the greatest impact.
Keep ‘Em In Your Sites
Kicking the tires on this product, we’re pretty sure any online business presence—certainly SnapMunk—would benefit from these kinds of insights. Sure, there may be more intense analysis to be had out there, but that’s actually where this product seems to win: its solid balance between analysis and education, coverage and conciseness, and mumbo-jumbo and accessibility. DareBoost seems to have hit a great sweetspot (in only two years??) when it comes to experience and ROI; not to mention the zero training required to actually get the tool generating value.
As we mentioned, for most of the functionality we’ve covered, the whole thing is less than $60 per month (if you pay for the whole year up front). Their most expensive canned package (for Enterprises) works out to only about ~$150 per month, but there is even an option to create your own package to customize things like Data Retention time, user counts and monitoring frequency.
Of course, again, you can start off with 5 reports for free. Ya, free. Let’s just file this under “Brain Not Required”.
This article has been sponsored by DareBoost. Thank you for supporting the partners who support SnapMunk.