First Meaningful Paint
May 20, 2023
First Meaningful Paint (FMP) is a Web Performance metric that measures the time it takes for a user to perceive the first meaningful visual change on a web page after clicking on a link or typing a URL. The term Meaningful Paint was introduced by Google in 2016 as part of their efforts to improve web user experience. It reflects the idea that users are interested in seeing content that is relevant to their query or task, and that the speed at which this content appears on the screen is crucial for their engagement and satisfaction.
Purpose of First Meaningful Paint
The main purpose of measuring First Meaningful Paint is to provide web developers with a better understanding of the user experience on their websites. By focusing on the time it takes for the most important visual elements to appear, developers can prioritize their optimization efforts and make informed decisions about how to improve page load times. This metric is particularly useful because it reflects the user’s perception of speed, rather than just the technical aspects of how long it takes for a page to fully load.
Usage of First Meaningful Paint
First Meaningful Paint is a key metric for web developers who are interested in optimizing the performance of their websites. It can be used in several ways, including:
First Meaningful Paint can be used as a benchmark for measuring the performance of a website over time. By tracking changes in FMP over different versions of a site, developers can identify areas where improvements have been made and areas that still need attention.
Because First Meaningful Paint measures the time it takes for the most important visual elements to appear, it can help developers prioritize their optimization efforts. By focusing on the elements that have the biggest impact on the user experience, they can make sure that their efforts are focused on the areas that matter most.
First Meaningful Paint can also be used to compare the performance of different websites or versions of the same website. By comparing FMP scores, developers can identify areas where their site is lagging behind the competition and make improvements accordingly.
4. User Experience
Finally, First Meaningful Paint can be used to improve the user experience on a website. By reducing the time it takes for the most important content to appear, developers can ensure that users remain engaged and satisfied with their site. This can lead to increased engagement, reduced bounce rates, and improved conversion rates.
How First Meaningful Paint is Calculated
Calculating First Meaningful Paint involves measuring the time it takes for the most important visual elements of a web page to appear. These elements are typically defined as the primary content, such as text, images, and videos, that users are most interested in seeing. The calculation of FMP is complex and varies depending on the tool used to measure it. However, the most common method involves the following steps:
1. Capture the Load Event
2. Identify the Primary Content
The next step in calculating FMP is to identify the primary content on the web page. This is typically done by analyzing the HTML code and looking for the largest text block, the first image or video, or other visual elements that are important for the user experience.
3. Calculate the Time to First Paint
The Time to First Paint (TTFP) is the time it takes for the first pixel to appear on the screen. This metric is used as a proxy for the time it takes for the web page to become visible. TTFP is calculated by capturing the first paint event, which is triggered when the browser starts rendering the page.
4. Calculate the Time to First Contentful Paint
The Time to First Contentful Paint (TTFCP) is the time it takes for the first piece of primary content to appear on the screen. This metric is used as a proxy for the time it takes for the most important visual elements to become visible. TTFCP is calculated by capturing the first contentful paint event, which is triggered when the browser starts rendering the primary content.
5. Calculate the First Meaningful Paint
The First Meaningful Paint is calculated by analyzing the sequence of events captured during the page load and identifying the point at which the most important visual elements have become visible. This is typically done using a custom algorithm that takes into account the size and importance of the different visual elements on the page.
Challenges in Measuring First Meaningful Paint
Measuring First Meaningful Paint is a complex task that involves several challenges. These challenges include:
The definition of what constitutes “meaningful” content is subjective and varies depending on the user and the context of the web page. Different users may have different expectations for what they consider the most important visual elements, and these expectations may change depending on the purpose of the website or the device being used.
The time it takes for the most important visual elements to appear can vary depending on a wide range of factors, including the user’s device, network speed, and browser settings. This variability can make it difficult to establish a consistent benchmark for measuring First Meaningful Paint.
Measuring First Meaningful Paint requires specialized tooling that may not be widely available or easy to use. This can make it difficult for developers who are not familiar with the intricacies of web performance optimization.