Speeding Up Your First Contentful PaintMarch 19, 2023 | By David Selden-Treiman | Filed in: Core Web Vitals.
First Contentful Paint (FCP) is a performance metric that measures the time it takes for the first piece of content, such as text or an image, to appear on the screen after a user navigates to a webpage.
- What Affects First Contentful Paint?
- What’s the Difference Between the First Contentful Paint and Largest Contentful Paint?
- How Do I Optimize Web Fonts for FCP?
- How Do I Optimize Images for FCP?
- How Do I Minimize Render Blocking Resources?
- How Do I Leverage Browser Caching?
- Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Implementing Server-Side Caching Optimizations for FCP
- Measuring & Monitoring FCP: How Do I Find My First Contentful Paint?
First Contentful Paint (FCP) is a metric that measures the time it takes for the first piece of content, such as text or an image, to appear on the screen after a user navigates to a webpage. The faster the FCP, the better the perceived performance and user experience.
By following this advice, you’ll gain insights into what factors affect FCP and learn various optimization techniques to improve it. If your goal is to enhance your website’s performance and make it more enjoyable for users, the first contentful paint is an important metric to consider.
Let’s dive in and explore the world of FCP optimization.
What Affects First Contentful Paint?
To effectively speed up your website’s First Contentful Paint (FCP), you need to comprehend the factors affecting it.
The browser rendering process involves several steps:
- parsing HTML,
- building the Document Object Model (DOM) tree,
- calculating CSS styles,
- layout, and
Each of these steps contributes to the time it takes for content to appear on the screen. Optimizing for these steps can help improve your FCP.
Another important aspect is the critical rendering path. This is the sequence of tasks the browser performs to display content on the screen as quickly as possible. Optimizing the critical rendering path directly impacts FCP and, in turn, enhances your website’s performance.
What’s the Difference Between the First Contentful Paint and Largest Contentful Paint?
Understanding the difference between First Contentful Paint (FCP) and Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is important when optimizing your website’s performance. Both FCP and LCP are core web vitals, which are a set of performance metrics that Google considers essential for a great user experience.
First Contentful Paint (FCP) is a metric that measures the time it takes for the first piece of content, such as text or an image, to appear on the screen after a user navigates to a webpage. FCP is crucial because it indicates the perceived loading speed of your website and helps you understand how quickly users can see content on the screen.
On the other hand, Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures the time it takes for the largest visible element, often an image, video preview, or large text block, to be fully rendered on the screen. LCP is important because it reflects the time it takes for the main content of the page to load, which directly impacts user engagement and satisfaction.
While both FCP and LCP are related to rendering content, the main difference between the two metrics is what they measure. FCP focuses on the time it takes for any content to be displayed, whereas LCP is concerned with the time it takes for the most significant content element to be rendered.
Optimizing both FCP and LCP is essential for delivering a fast and engaging user experience, and by doing so, you’ll enhance your website’s overall performance and make it more enjoyable for your users.
How Do I Optimize Web Fonts for FCP?
Optimizing web fonts is an essential aspect of improving your website’s First Contentful Paint (FCP).
Efficient Font Formats
To begin, you need to choose efficient font formats, such as WOFF2 and WOFF, which offer superior compression and faster loading times compared to older formats like TTF or EOT.
By using these modern font formats, you’ll reduce the time it takes for text to appear on the screen.
Load Fonts Asynchronously
Additionally, consider subsetting your fonts. Subsetting is the process of removing unnecessary characters or glyphs from a font file, which results in smaller file sizes and faster loading times. Several tools and techniques are available for subsetting fonts, such as online services or font editing software. By subsetting your fonts, you’ll further reduce the time it takes for text content to appear on the screen, improving FCP and overall website performance.
How Do I Optimize Images for FCP?
Image optimization is another vital aspect of improving your website’s First Contentful Paint (FCP). Start by choosing the right image format for your content. Compare popular image formats like JPEG, PNG, and WebP to determine which one best suits your needs.
Keep in mind that next-generation image formats like AVIF and JPEG XL offer better compression and quality, resulting in faster loading times and improved FCP.
Next, focus on image compression. Determine whether lossless or lossy compression is suitable for your images, and use tools like ImageOptim or TinyPNG to compress them without sacrificing too much quality. Effective image compression helps reduce file sizes and speeds up loading times, thus enhancing FCP.
Responsive images are another important aspect to consider. Implementing responsive images ensures that the appropriate image size is served to users based on their device’s screen size and resolution. You can achieve this by using the HTML ‘srcset’ and ‘sizes’ attributes. Responsive images not only improve FCP by serving smaller images to smaller devices but also enhance the overall user experience by delivering crisp, high-quality images to high-resolution screens.
By optimizing your images through the proper choice of format, compression, and implementing responsive images, you’ll significantly reduce image load times and improve your website’s FCP, resulting in a better experience for your users.
How Do I Minimize Render Blocking Resources?
Minimizing render-blocking resources is crucial to speeding up your website’s First Contentful Paint (FCP).
Inline Critical CSS Within HTML
One key aspect to address is critical CSS, which refers to the minimal set of styles required to render the above-the-fold content of your website. Start by identifying your critical CSS and then inline it within the HTML to ensure it loads immediately. This will enable the browser to render the page more quickly, improving FCP.
Code-Split If Necessary
By focusing on minimizing render-blocking resources through the optimization of critical CSS, deferring non-critical resources, and implementing code splitting, you’ll see a significant improvement in your website’s FCP, leading to a better user experience and overall website performance.
How Do I Leverage Browser Caching?
Leveraging browser caching is an essential part of improving your website’s First Contentful Paint (FCP). Browser caching allows web browsers to store static files, such as images, stylesheets, and scripts, on the user’s device. This enables the browser to load these files from the local cache instead of downloading them again, significantly reducing the time it takes to display content on subsequent visits.
To implement browser caching, you need to set appropriate cache-control headers on your server. These headers determine how long the browser should store the cached files. For example, if you are using an Apache server, you can set cache-control headers by adding the following code to your .htaccess file:
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 year"
ExpiresByType text/css "access plus 1 month"
By leveraging browser caching and setting appropriate cache-control headers, you’ll reduce the number of requests and data that needs to be transferred on subsequent visits, improving FCP and providing a faster browsing experience for your users.
Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Utilizing a Content Delivery Network (CDN) is an effective strategy to enhance your website’s First Contentful Paint (FCP). A CDN is a network of servers distributed across multiple locations around the world, designed to deliver content to users from the server closest to them.
By employing a CDN, you can significantly reduce the latency caused by the physical distance between your users and your web server.
To understand how a CDN works, consider that when a user requests a file from your website, the CDN intercepts the request and retrieves the file from the nearest server in its network. This process reduces the time it takes for data to travel between the server and the user’s device, resulting in faster loading times and improved FCP.
There are many CDN providers available, each with different features and pricing structures. Some popular CDN providers include Cloudflare, Amazon CloudFront, and Akamai. When choosing a CDN, consider factors such as the size of the network, performance, security features, and ease of integration with your website.
We have an article on the benefits and selecting a CDN to use for your website.
By incorporating a CDN into your website’s architecture, you’ll minimize latency and accelerate content delivery, ultimately improving FCP and the overall user experience. A faster FCP means a better first impression for your users and higher satisfaction levels, which can lead to increased engagement and conversions.
Implementing Server-Side Caching Optimizations for FCP
To implement SSR, you’ll need to modify your application to render the initial HTML on the server-side using the respective framework’s capabilities, such as ReactDOMServer for React or Vue Server Renderer for Vue. By adopting SSR, you’ll not only enhance FCP but also improve the search engine crawlability of your website, as search engine bots can easily parse the pre-rendered HTML.
If you’re on WordPress, simply adding server-side caching can also speed up the FCP just by decreasing your time to first byte (TTFB) and other metrics of server responsiveness. You can do this by adding plugins to set up caching like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache.
Another server-side optimization to consider is upgrading your server to support the newer HTTP/2 or HTTP/3 protocols. These protocols introduce performance improvements such as multiplexing, header compression, and faster connection setup, which can help reduce the time it takes to load your web page and improve FCP. Consult your hosting provider or server documentation to learn how to enable HTTP/2 or HTTP/3 support.
Overall, just getting better hosting can really be a big help too in order to speed up your website’s FCP.
Measuring & Monitoring FCP: How Do I Find My First Contentful Paint?
Measuring and monitoring your website’s First Contentful Paint (FCP) is crucial to understand its performance and identify areas for improvement. To do this, you can use various tools that provide insights into your website’s FCP and other performance metrics.
Some popular tools include Google Lighthouse, Chrome DevTools, and GTMetrix. These tools will help you analyze your website’s performance, identify bottlenecks, and provide recommendations for optimization.
For instance, GTMetrix is a user-friendly online tool that not only measures FCP but also provides a comprehensive performance report, including scores for other metrics like Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) and Total Blocking Time (TBT). By analyzing these reports, you can pinpoint areas that need improvement and implement changes to enhance your website’s FCP.
Setting performance budgets is another essential aspect of monitoring your website’s FCP. Performance budgets define limits on specific metrics, such as FCP or the size of page resources, to ensure that your website’s performance remains within acceptable levels. By establishing and adhering to performance budgets, you’ll maintain a consistent user experience and prevent performance degradation over time.
Continuous monitoring and optimization are key to maintaining a fast FCP and an excellent user experience. Regularly assess your website’s performance using the mentioned tools, implement the recommended optimizations, and track the impact of your changes. By staying proactive in your website’s performance management, you’ll ensure that your users continue to enjoy a fast and seamless browsing experience.
In conclusion, improving your website’s First Contentful Paint (FCP) is essential for creating a positive user experience and enhancing overall website performance. By following the strategies outlined in this guide, such as:
- optimizing web fonts,
- optimizing images,
- minimizing render-blocking resources,
- leveraging browser caching,
- utilizing a Content Delivery Network (CDN),
- implementing server-side optimizations, and
- continuously measuring and monitoring your website’s FCP,
you’ll create a fast and engaging experience for your users.
Keep in mind that optimizing your website’s performance is an ongoing process. Regularly evaluate your website using performance tools, stay up-to-date with the latest best practices and technologies, and consistently apply improvements.
By doing so, you’ll ensure that your website remains fast, responsive, and enjoyable for users, ultimately leading to higher user satisfaction, increased engagement, and better conversion rates. Stay proactive in your performance optimization efforts, and your website will consistently deliver an exceptional user experience.
David Selden-Treiman is Director of Operations and a project manager at Potent Pages. He specializes in custom web crawler development, website optimization, server management, web application development, and custom programming. Working at Potent Pages since 2012 and programming since 2003, David has extensive expertise solving problems using programming for dozens of clients. He also has extensive experience managing and optimizing servers, managing dozens of servers for both Potent Pages and other clients.