Website Timings Explained

Eva Claes
Technical Copywriter
February 29, 2024

Have you noticed how the loading times of websites can drastically differ? This phenomenon can be attributed to the complex series of steps involved in making a HTTP request. These steps, from the initial user request to the full display of the webpage, are crucial in defining the user experience. A swift and seamless website not only enhances user satisfaction but also positively influences search engine rankings by indicating a well-optimized site. The time of each of these steps, measured in milliseconds, can be broken down into a different performance metric. By monitoring them you can gain valuable insights into which parts of your website are being slow.

Every second of delay can lead to frustration for your audience and, as a result, could affect your site's performance metrics. Metrics such as bounce rates, time on site, and overall user engagement are heavily influenced by how swiftly your content is delivered. Your website's performance is a key component of your online success. By analyzing and optimizing each aspect of website timings, you can ensure that your visitors have the best experience possible, which in turn contributes positively to the perceived quality of your site.

DNS Resolution Time

DNS Resolution Time or DNS Lookup Time is the first step of the puzzle. Simply put, when someone types your website's address into their browser, their computer uses the Domain Name System (DNS) to translate the human-friendly web address into an IP address that computers use to identify each other on the network. This process is akin to looking up a phone number in a phone book; resolving the right number to call your website's server. The time taken to complete this lookup is known as the DNS Resolution Time.

At times, DNS Resolution can be a silent offender when it comes to website performance lag. Several factors could slow down this process: the performance of the DNS servers that your domain is registered with; how widely and efficiently your DNS records are replicated across the globe; and whether or not the querying computer has access to a cached DNS response. If the DNS provider is slow or the DNS records aren’t optimized for performance, the delay becomes more apparent. For someone visiting your website, this could mean a frustrating wait before the page even begins to load.

It’s important to realize that optimizing DNS Resolution Time can significantly improve your website’s overall responsiveness. Tracking this time can help identify if there is a need to switch to faster DNS providers or fine-tune DNS records to enhance your website performance, ensuring that your audience has rapid access to your content from the very first step.

Connecting Time

Once your browser has resolved the DNS name of a website, the next step is to actually connect to the site's server. Connecting Time encompasses the duration this process takes, from initiating the connection to the server, to the server acknowledging that connection, effectively establishing a communication path between the two. The length of this timespan can be influenced by a multitude of factors, such as network latency, server location, and the quality of the connection itself.

Here's why it truly matters: Consider Connecting Time as the digital handshake between your browser and the website. If this greeting lags, you're left waiting longer before seeing any content. A range of conditions could lead to slower connection times: If the server is geographically distant, the data has a longer path to travel, which subsequently slows down the handshake. Another element to consider is server load—if a server is experiencing high traffic, it may respond sluggishly to new connection requests. Additionally, network issues on the user's end, such as a slow internet service provider or problematic routing, can prolong the Connecting Time.

To put it simply, the quicker your browser and a website's server can start talking, the faster you'll start receiving the site's data.

TLS Setup Time

The TLS Setup Time is an essential metric when measuring a website's performance, particularly its security responsiveness. TLS, or Transport Layer Security, is the protocol responsible for establishing an encrypted link between your web browser and the server, ensuring that all data passed between them remains confidential and intact. This time measures how long it takes to negotiate the TLS handshake, which includes the authentication of the server's SSL certificate, the agreement on cipher suites, and the setup of the encryption keys for the session.

Understanding the nuance of the TLS handshake is vital; a delay in this process can signal potential performance issues. Several factors might contribute to a lengthy TLS Setup Time. For one, a server with a large volume of traffic may take longer to respond. The complexity of the website’s encryption requirements can also extend the time it takes for your browser to collaborate with the server. Moreover, if the website's SSL certificate is not properly optimized, or key lengths are excessively long, these could slow down the handshake process significantly. Lastly, network conditions at the time of a user's visit could introduce latency, further prolonging TLS setup.

Acknowledging these metrics is important, as longer TLS setup times can affect your site’s trustworthiness and user experience. Users expect secure connections almost instantaneously, and if your website's TLS handshake takes too long, it could deter them from using your site altogether. WatchSumo monitors these timings meticulously, alerting you to any anomalies that could indicate a need for optimisation or changes in your TLS configurations.

Sending Time

Next up is Sending Time which measures the duration it takes for your browser to send a request to the server, after the connection has been established and any necessary TLS encryption has been negotiated. Think of Sending Time as the moment you hit 'send' on an email and wait for the notification informing you it's reached the recipient's inbox.

In a bit more technical detail, Sending Time encapsulates the instant from when the HTTP request leaves your end until the very first byte of response is received. This period includes delivering request headers, and if applicable, POST data. If you're filling out a form or uploading a file on a website, it's the Sending Time that determines how snappily the site acknowledges your action.

However, several factors can lead to a lag in Sending Time. It could be due to the heftiness of the request itself—the larger the upload packet, the longer it may take. Sluggish network conditions or a server that's burdened with handling numerous requests simultaneously can also extend this duration. In the simplest terms, if the line is busy, your call takes longer to connect. You should also keep an eye out for poor coding practices or suboptimal configurations potentially hampering this process, especially on more complex or highly interactive websites.

Waiting Time

After your web request is sent and the server is reached, the next stage is Waiting Time. This refers to the duration your browser spends waiting for the initial response, also known as the Time to First Byte (TTFB), from the server aside from the network latency. It starts after sending the request and stops the moment one byte of the response is received. This period is crucial, as it can greatly influence how fast a page loads from the user's perspective.

Waiting Time encompasses the server's processing time for the specific request. This includes the time taken to run database queries, execute backend code, rendering the requested resource, and any other server-side logic before responding back to the client. A longer Waiting Time indicates a bottleneck at the server level, which can be due to various reasons such as server load, inefficient code, resource-heavy queries, or hardware limitations

The most common candidate for this being slow is the database. Check that the tables you are querying have the correct indexes.

Receiving Time

Receiving Time, also known as Content Download Time, refers to the final phase in the webpage loading process, where your browser has completed all prior steps – connecting to the server, setting up a secured connection if needed through TLS, and sending your request – and now waits to actually receive the data. This part of the timing is crucial as it’s the period where the bulk of the website’s data, including HTML, CSS, scripts, images, and other media, are transferred to your browser.

The duration of this stage can vary and is influenced by several factors. One reason it may be slow is due to the size of the response from the server; the larger the amount of data that needs to be sent, the longer it will take. Additionally, server performance plays a critical role. If the server is under heavy load or poorly configured, it might take longer to process and serve the files. Network conditions between the server and your local machine also impact receiving time. Factors such as bandwidth limitation, high traffic, or physical distance from the server can increase the time it takes for data to reach you.

If you notice that the receiving time is consistently high, it’s an indicator that the bottleneck might be in the data transfer phase. It could mean that either the server needs to be optimized for better performance, or your internet connection may be insufficient to handle the volume of data being transferred. This slow down impacts the user experience, making it critical to monitor and address efficiently.


In essence, understanding website timings is crucial for improving user experience and website performance. Slowdowns in any of these areas can result in a sluggish website, affecting user satisfaction and SEO rankings. Inside your dashboard on WatchSumo you can view a breakdown of each of these timings, so if your website is slow, you can easily identify which step in the process is causing issues and needs further investigation. By reducing delays and enhancing these timings, you're not only contributing to a better user experience but also to the overall success of your website's performance. Keep these timings in check, and you'll be on your way to a swift, responsive, and highly accessible website.