Need for Speed – Fast Loading the Key to a Satisfying UX
A website’s success can depend on several factors. Intuitive navigation, aesthetically appealing design, quality content, site maps, etc. – all play a vital role in making a website successful.
There is one more very important factor that has a huge impact on the success of your website – page load time.
How does page load speed impact user experience?
According to a study by Akamai and Forrester Research:
Around 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online.
Even a Google study found that slowing down the search results page by 100 to 400 milliseconds had a measurable impact on the number of searches per user.
This shows people expect a super quick online user experiences and if your website takes too long to load, it would probably result in the user clicking the back button or exiting the site completely. On the other hand, a fast website can improve the overall browsing experience of visitors.
Mobile Speed Matters too
Technology is changing the way people surf the Web these days. With advanced computing capabilities and connectivity that provides consumers’ access to the Internet on their fingertips, smartphones have transformed surfing habits in people around the world.
A lot of smartphone and tablet users expect websites on their devices to load even faster than they would on a desktop. 85% of mobile users expect pages to load as fast as or even faster than they load on the desktop. Unfortunately, performance on mobile often falls short of consumer expectations.
A KISSmetrics report found that 73% of mobile users say they have encountered a website that was too slow to load. This problem pushes smartphone users to other sites that load faster on their mobile phones.
To get around this problem, it is important to ensure that your site speed is maintained irrespective of the device being used.
Can the speed of website have effect on conversions?
YES. The loading time has a direct impact on your site’s conversions.
Microsoft conducted an experiment on a very small percentage of Bing users and found that delays of over 500 milliseconds can cause a measurable drop in revenue per user. Even Amazon found this to be the case, reporting increased revenue of 1% for every 100 milliseconds of improvement to their site speed. Walmart also found a 2% increase in conversions for every 1 second of improvement in page load speed.
That’s not all. A study also found that:
This means loading time is also major contributing factor to page abandonment.
Page Load Speed and SEO
Moreover page speed has implications beyond a poor user experience and loss of revenue; it also affects search engine rankings. In April 2010, Google started to take load time into account when ranking sites.
Here is what Google has to say about page speed: “We believe that making our websites load and display faster improves the user’s experience and helps them become more productive.”
Recently, Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, announced that Google is likely to roll out a version of the site speed ranking factor for mobile sites. So, websites that are receiving more mobile traffic but are slow to load or not properly optimized, will be penalized by Google in search rankings.
Determine Your Page Load Speed
Now that you have realized the impact of page load speed on user-experience, conversions and your search rankings, the first step you should take is to determine your page load speed. There are several tools to help you with this and Google PageSpeed Insights, YSlow by Yahoo, WebPagetest, and GTmetrix are the notable ones.
How to Improve Site Speed
The ultimate goal of your site is to provide your visitors with the information/services they seek as quickly as possible. A faster site not only improves user experience but also helps boost sales. This makes it vital for you to keep a regular check on your page load time.
You can optimize your website and improve its overall quality and performance with the following tips:
One way to improve website performance and speed up page load times is to compress images. A server does not have to send out as much data this way. You cannot eliminate all images from your site, so if you want to optimize images without losing visual quality, you can use a tool. For web graphics, use GIFs or PNGs rather than JPGs.
Compressing images improves the download timing, bandwidth and the storage space offering good user experience (UX) to your visitors.
Use a Content Delivery Network
If your site has large amounts of content to display, consider using a content delivery network (CDN) – a system of computers containing copies of data, placed at various points in a network so as to maximize bandwidth for access to the data from clients throughout the network.
Content Delivery Networks work by serving pages depending on where the user is located. Faster access to a server near their geographical area means they get the site to load sooner.
Get a Dedicated Server
Another way to improve performance is to move to a faster server or get a dedicated server. Although it may cost more it is better than using cheaper slower server that can cost you even more in sales over the long term.
Enable Gzip Compression
Large pages that contain loads of content are usually slow to download. One of the ways to speed up load time of such pages is to compress such files into a zip file. Compression reduces the bandwidth of the page, making it easier for a user’s browser to load them. Gzip is the tool that will help you compress your website’s files and speed up page load times. The user’s browser then unzips the file and shows the content.
Website speed is crucial for developing the best user experience. When it comes to page-load optimization, every kilobyte counts. Your website speed, therefore, can be the difference between your online business generating and not generating revenues! Don’t put optimizing a website’s loading time on the back burner, as it can prove detrimental to your business’s topline revenue.
Michael Georgiou is a dynamic business professional and entrepreneurial guru associated with Imaginovation – proven his success in creative strategy, online branding, project management, and communication projects in both the public and private sectors.