When it comes to page loading speeds, it seems there is a time warp between provider and customer perspectives. When developing websites, we often seem to forget what we value in our own user experience. We know that if a page takes more than a couple of seconds to load, we lose patience and feel frustrated, probably abandoning the website for another and even feeling a certain animosity towards the website company for putting us through such emotions.
However, when it comes to developing our own website, we are often convinced that the end justifies the means and wholeheartedly believe that the quality of our site justifies putting the customer through an extra few seconds of loading, completely ignoring how we feel when we are on the receiving end. That indulgence of even just a couple of extra seconds can cost us significant amounts of revenue.
Not only do increased load times cause a direct effect on customer behaviour, but Google SEO rankings can also be significantly affected by the most recent algorithm. Also, it is important to recognise that these points apply to mobile, as well as laptop loading times since consumers expect a similar experience when looking at a website on any device. Especially for mobiles, time is often of the essence as users are on the move and needing the information immediately e.g. if they are searching for a local restaurant, looking for a taxi or trying to make a purchase during a few spare minutes. Speeding up your site will have a positive impact on both your conversion rates and also your rankings, so producing a twofold increase in potential revenue.
How slow is too slow?
Research shows that even after a few seconds, visitors can give up trying to get into a site and leave it for another one. In a survey by Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. With these numbers in mind, it’s possible, knowing your conversion rate, to approximate how much business you could be losing by the few taking those extra few seconds to load.
Furthermore, the same survey found that almost 70% of shoppers who have trouble with website performance said that they wouldn’t return to that website again and almost half of them would tell a friend that they had a poor shopping experience. This means that the effect of a slow or badly loading page is magnified, as customers who have experienced your poorly loading page will likely broadcast their story.
Having understood the layered consequences of slow loading, the next step is to measure the speed of your own pages. Checking your page speed can be done using several methods. Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom, both calculate page speeds for you. If we look at Google’s PageSpeed Insights as an example, the report will show a red / orange indicator if speeds are low and then give some guidelines as to what could be improved.
Here are just some of the things to look out for; there are many other factors that contribute to having a fast loading site.
- Optimise images: Consider the size and format of your images.
- Minimise HTTP requests: Use minimal code that is well-written, so that it only opens resource as and when required.
- Prioritise Above-the-Fold content: Load the main content of your pages first.
- Enable compression.
- Reduce redirects.
- Leverage browser caching.
- Improve server response time.
- Use a content distribution network.
- Reduce the number of plug-ins used on the site.
It is easy to underestimate the importance of a website’s page speed, but the consequences can be very significant. No matter how appealing a website is, it is entirely useless if the customer has abandoned it before it has even loaded, especially if this experience causes negative emotions which manifest themselves in a poor view of the website company, both for the user themselves and for those to whom they complain. Successful websites are run with an understanding of how all aspects of the site affect the bottom line and page load speeds are a clear example of this principle.