Need for Speed

Fast Loading the Key to a Better User Experience

A website’s success can depend on several factors. Intuitive navigation, aesthetically appealing design, quality content — all play a vital role in making a website successful. But there is one more very important factor that has a huge impact on the success of your website — page load time.

Users hate slow sites

Users really care about speed in interaction design. And loading time is a major contributing factor to page abandonment. The average user has no patience for a page that takes too long to load. Slower page response time results in an increase in page abandonment, as demonstrated in the following chart:

According to surveys done 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.

Google Cares a Lot About Load Time

Google might crawl your site slower if you have a slow site. That’s especially bad if you are adding new content or making changes to it. John Mueller said:

We’re seeing an extremely high response-time for requests made to your site (at times, over 2 seconds to fetch a single URL). This has resulted in us severely limiting the number of URLs we’ll crawl from your site.

John specifically said 2 seconds disrupts crawling activity, not ranking ability, but you get the picture.

Mobile Speed Matters Too

A lot of smartphone and tablet users expect web browsing experience on their phone that’s comprable to what they get on their desktop. A KISSmetrics report found that majority of mobile users say they have encountered a website that was too slow to load. But overall mobile users are more patient — most users would wait 6–10 seconds before they abandon pages:

KISSMetrics report for Mobile Speed

What’s Slowing These Pages Down?

Slow page rendering today is typically caused by server delays or overly fancy page widgets, not by big images. Though images can still cause delays on mobile devices. Instead of big images, today’s big response-time sinners are typically overly complex data processing on the server or overly fancy widgets on the page:

  • Heavy Advertising: this becomes a real issue when sites allow ads to block other content from being loaded.
  • Analytics products: Google Analytics ranks among the fastest of these statistic products.
  • Social media widgets: including multiple Tweet, Facebook and Pinterest buttons per page.
  • Improperly sized and uncompressed images.

How to Improve Site Speed

For that you want to couple the insight from Google analytics with a tool to find specific performance problems. Take a look at free tools like YSlow, PageSpeed, WebPageTest, as well as the free scanning service offered by my start-up Zoompf. Really helpful to find ways to improve your landing pages or pages with high drop-off rates:

PageSpeed from Google

A Few Practical Tips

  1. Have your Javascript and CSS load in external files instead of cramping up each and every web pages. This way, the browser only has to load the files one time, rather than every time someone visits each page of your site
  2. Almost 10% of searches in USA are made through mobile devices. So it is becoming more and more important to be sure to use gzip for the text data compression as well as smaller images on mobile version of your site. Click here to check if your site is already use gzip.
  3. Sites shouldn’t be “too rich” because even better devices have quite slow processor when comparing to desktop so sites with too many elements are going to have large load time.
  4. Your hosting environment makes a material difference in page load times. Even a site that is properly optimized for content and server configuration can be slow if the host is running slow.
  5. Cache the latest version of your pages and display it to your users so that the browser isn’t forced to go dynamically generate that page every single time.
  6. If your site is extremely popular but you’re still having trouble getting your page load down to size, use a Content Delivery Network like Amazon Cloudfront. The goal of a CDN is to serve content to end-users based on user’s location.
  7. Optimize Your Images (using services like TinyPNG) and don’t rely on HTML to resize images.

Conclusion

Website speed is crucial for developing the best user experience. Load time can contribute to the rise and fall of your conversion rate. When it comes to page-load, every kilobyte counts. The reasons behind delays don’t matter to users. All they know is that they’re getting poor service, which is annoying.

Make sure to optimize site to have page load less than 2 seconds. Else your business would be at great risk of losing customers.