Google’s Web Vitals helps websites put visitors first

New metrics will determine if a site has a positive user experience or not.

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Browsing the internet might be lightning fast compared to the clunky dial-up days of yesteryear, but for many of us it’s still not fast enough. Now, Google is introducing a new initiative that will help developers make sure their pages load swiftly, and which will show users which websites are performing below par.

First discussed at last year’s Chrome Developer Summit, Web Vitals will give devs and website owners a unified set of metrics against which they can measure their site’s performance. There are three core metrics: largest contentful paint, which measures perceived load speed; first input delay, which measures responsiveness; and cumulative layout shift, which measures a page’s visual stability. The outcome of these diagnostics will then be displayed in a new Core Web Vitals Chrome extension, which will be available to both users and developers.

According to Ilya Grigorik, web performance engineer at Google, the new tool has been designed to help mitigate the confusing glut of information site owners are often faced with. “Through our ongoing engagement and collaboration with millions of web developers and site owners, we’ve developed many helpful metrics and tools across Google to help business owners, marketers, and developers alike identify opportunities to improve user experiences,” he wrote in a blog post. “However, abundance of metrics and tools creates its own set of prioritization, clarity, and consistency challenges for many.” Web Vitals, however, aims to “provide unified guidance for quality signals” that are “essential to delivering a great user experience.”

It’s not quite the “speed badging” concept Google first hinted at — an idea that would reward fast-loading sites with positive badging and display advisory badging on slower-loading counterparts. It is, however, a more constructive feature that actively aims to help developers see where there is room for improvement, and the accompanying Chrome extension is a useful tool to help them monitor progress, rather than shame them publicly. This carrot, rather than a stick, approach could be the gentle encouragement many website owners need to get their sites up to scratch.

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