Find and Fix Interaction to Next Paint (INP) issues

Learn how to identify and take care of Interaction To Next Paint issues

Arjen Karel Core Web Vitals Consultant
Arjen Karel

Find and Fix Interaction to Next Paint (INP) issues

In our previous article we talked about the interaction to next paint. If you would like to read up on the basics this is a great place to start!

In this article I will focus on identifying the different Interaction To Next Paint issues and then explain how to fix them!

INP TIP: most of the time the INP will be much worse when a user interacts with the page during the startup stage of of page loading. That is why, when debugging the INP it makes sense to log all interactions as well as the page loading state!

Step 1: Check the INP in search console

"The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem". So before we do anything to fix the Interaction to Next Paint let's make sure that we really have a problem with the interaction to next paint.

Log in to you Google Search Console. In the left menu click Core Web Vitals and select either Mobile or Desktop (tip: most of the times INP issues are on mobile, so start with mobile)

Here you will see an overview of all Core Web Vitals related issues that are currently on your site. If one of these issues in INP related we have confirmed there is a problem!

inp search console early warning

Step 2: Identify Interaction to Next Paint issues

Google Search console does not give you any information apart from URL groups to figure out what is causing the problems with the Interaction to Next Paint. So most of the times I see developers just blindly going in. They start removing unused JavaScript (always, a great idea) and breaking up the main thread (also a great idea) but that hardly ever fixes the INP completely.

That is why, when improving the INP, we will need to know exactly what is going in.

Which elements, when interacted with cause a bad INP Score. Usually a bad INP score is not caused by one single element but a combination of issues. We need to tackle them one by one, starting with the worst ones and working our way up.
When do these Interactions happen? Do they happen during the start-up phase of page load or do they happen even when the main page
Where do these interactions happen? Do they happen on every page or do they happen only on a few selected pages.
How can we replicate these interaction. You might have found out by now that is is hard to replicate INP issues. That is why we need to set ourselves up for succes by mimicking device characteristics with a bad INP score.

Set up RUM tracking

To answer all these questions we need to start tracking real users and log any of the problems that might happen with the Interaction to Next Paint. There are several ways to enable RUM tracking. The first is by leveraging the Web Vitals library and sending the results to your own analytics backend. The upside to this method is that it is cheap and flexible. The downsize is that is might be a lot of extra work.

A good alternative to sending your Core Web Vitals data to your own backend is by using one of the many RUM tools our there. We have developped Core/Dash just for these use cases. Core/Dash is a low cost, fast and effective RUM tool that just get's the job done! Of course there are many RUM solutions out there and they will also do the job (at a higher price though)

Find slow interactions per element that cause a high INP

The first thing that needs to be done is find the 'slowest' interactions that cause the worst time to fist byte scores. Just list your pages by 'INP metric by Elements' in CoreDash and you will get your slowest interactions. Click on the first line to filter your metrics by these interactions.

inp by element interaction

Find when bad INP interactions occur

Next sort the filtered URL's by load state. This will give you more insight into the root cause of the INP. In this case the high INP happens when the DOM content has been loaded. This means script have been parsed but async scripts an the page's sub-resources have not yet been loaded. In this case the INP is caused by early clicks when the page load has not completely finished!

Continue by clicking the load state with the highest impact to create another filter!

inp by load state

Find URLs responsible for high INP scores

Finally when we have filtered for the elements with the slowest interaction and the correct load state we are going to take a look at the URL's where the INP is at it's worse. In this case this clearly happens on a specific set of pages.

inp by url

Find device characteristics

Finally, when we have identified slow interactions, load state and urls that cause a high Interaction to Next Paint we are going to take a look at what types of visitors cause the worst INP scores. We would look at Device Memory, Bandwidth, Screen size etc. Once we have identified these characteristics we can move on to replicating and logging the issue!

inp by device memory

Step 3: replicate and debug interactions that cause a high INP score

Once we have all the information that we need we can start to dig deep into the underlying issues of the Interaction to Next Paint.

Set yourself up for success: replicate the INP failing circumstances

The next thing we should do is try and recreate the failing INP. We do this by mimicking the circumstances where the INP might be failing.

Use the Chrome Performance Panel: Open the chrome developer tools (Ctrl-Shift-i) and select the performance panel. In the top bar you can select the CPU Throttle (throttle it to 4x slowdown to emulate a normal mobile device), the Network Throttle (select the fast 3g preset to mimic your average mobile device) and set the hardware concurrency to 4 or 8 to mimic your average mobile.

To load chrome with less memory available (although lowering the network and CPU setting will often do the job!) start up chrome in a docker container and assign less memory.

chrome perfomance panel slowdown

Reload the page, interact and check the INP with the Core Web Vitals visualizer

The next step to finding the cause of the bad INP scores is to simulate the conditions and confirm that the INP scores are indeed as bad as reported.

Reload page and click on the right element at the right time

view inp with cwv visualizer

Debug the INP with a performance trace

This is the moment you have been preparing for in the previous steps. It is time to find out why a certain interaction if causing the bad Interaction To Next Paint score.

Open the Chrome Developer Console again (Ctrl-Shift-i), navigate to the Performance panel and this time click the Circular Arrow icon to reload the page and start recording (or use the Ctrl-Shift-E shortcut).

Open the Chrome Developer Console again (Ctrl-Shift-i), navigate to the Performance panel and this time click the Circular Arrow icon to reload the page and start recording (or use the Ctrl-Shift-E shortcut).

inp performance trace debug

Step 3: Fix INP issues

We are now at a point where we know what interaction is causing our bad INP and we have analyzed exactly what is going on during this slow interaction. This means it is time to start fixing the Interaction to Next Paint

There are roughly 4 reasons why an INP metric might be failing:

  1. Early interaction. When an interactive element is presented early (for example a site search element) and is controlled by JavaScript that loads later there will be INP issues because interaction with the element will not trigger a layout update. Either prioritize the functionality or hide/disable the element during early page load.
  2. Long tasks are blocking the main thread. Remove unused code, prioritize essential code, load non-essential code during browser idle, identify and optimize slow code and simplify the HTML + CSS
  3. There is no immediate feedback. On interaction provide immediate feedback before parsing the input response.
  4. Complicated lay-out updates. Keep the DOM small and simple and use content-visibility to lazy-render off-screen content.

I help teams pass the Core Web Vitals:

lighthouse 100 score

A slow website is likely to miss out on conversions and revenue. Nearly half of internet searchers don't wait three seconds for a page to load before going to another site. Ask yourself: "Is my site fast enough to convert visitors into customers?"

Find and Fix Interaction to Next Paint (INP) issuesCore Web Vitals Find and Fix Interaction to Next Paint (INP) issues