The success of your website will depend on various factors. The use of intuitive navigation, sexy aesthetic and appealing design, quality content,  – each of which play a vital role in making your website successful.

But if your website is slow, visitors will turn away in droves. They might even click the back button before your website loads, if this is the case, the user may never even see all the awesome things you’ve done to make your website kick-ass.

 

How does page load speed impact user experience? According to a study by Akamai and Forrester Research:

  • 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.
  • 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with web site performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again.

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:

  • 79% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with website performance are less likely to buy from the same site again.
  • 52% of online shoppers state that quick page loading is important to their site loyalty.

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

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.

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,

My favorite tool is Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool.

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:

Choose the Right Hosting Plan

The first step in optimizing your website correctly is to choose the right hosting plan. You are fighting a losing battle if your server is taking an age to process HTTP requests and MySQL commands.

Performance services  will advise you of the exact response time of your server. I recommend testing the response time of your own website against similar websites. For example, if you run a photography blog, see how your server response time compares to other photography blogs within your niche.

Hosting companies are not always the cause. You may be with a great hosting company but see poor response times because your chosen hosting plan is underpowered. Customers using shared hosting plans, for example, are more likely to face slow loading times as hundreds of websites are hosted on the same server.

However, any type of hosting plan will suffer from insufficient RAM and CPU throttling. Therefore, you need to pay attention to what your website needs to run smoothly. Do not be a cheapskate and go for the cheapest option. Do your research and choose a hosting plan that can handle traffic spikes efficiently.

My personal favorite for best value of server speed and uptime vs pricing is A2 Hosting

That said- bluehost,  hostgator, and many others are ok as well. Don’t expect great customer service from any of these options and remember to be weary of their cheapest plans, as these low cost options are more for marketing purposes, than actually providing quality hosting.

Compress Images

One way to improve website performance and speed up your page load times is to compress your images. A server does not have to send out as much data this way. While you can’t eliminate all images from your site,  you want to optimize each one without losing visual quality, you can use photoshop’s ‘Save for Web’ option (keyboard shortcut: command, shift, alt, ‘S’) Start w/ the following settings:

  • DPI- 72
  • Quality- 90%
  • Then adjust your actual image dimensions

When sizing your image, make it only as large as you intend it to appear on the web page. EG. if its intended size is just a small profile pic, then make sure your final image size is only a few hundred pixels wide and not a few thousand.  The live preview will show you exactly how large it will be. If you still need to have a smaller file size- do not change dpi or image dimensions, rather reduce quality by 10% increments. For most purposes 60% Quality is OK.

For graphics, be sure to use GIFs or PNGs rather than JPGs, as you get smaller file sizes.

Remember to watch the IQ or image quality to ensure balance between page load speeds and IQ so the visual aesthetics don’t noticeably suffer.

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.

Most CDNs are used to host static resources such as images, videos, audio clips, CSS files and JavaScript. Services start as low as  $10/mo. If you’re website budget is already maxed out, try other options first.

Bottom Line:

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. If you would like help w/ optimizing your website, see how we can help you out.

 

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