How to increase loading times and keep web visitors happy
Loading Times: Are They THAT big of a deal?
Web performance optimisation, or WPO, is a term that relates to the various techniques IT specialists use in order to increase the speed in which websites are downloaded and displayed on a user’s web browser.
You may be thinking, “what a waste of time – most pages load quickly enough, and what difference is a few seconds going to make?” Well, honestly, you’d be surprised. And, more often than not, we’re talking milliseconds rather than seconds.
In fact, according to this compendium of web performance stats by Radware, there are 55 reasons why you need to optimise your website’s performance and page loading times:
- 44 percent of online shoppers claim that a slow transaction increases their anxiety about that purchase.
- Online shoppers remember load times as being 35 percent longer than they actually were.
- 51 percent of shoppers claim that a slow load time is the top reason they abandon a purchase.
- A two second delay in load time transaction results in an abandonment rate of up to 87 percent – 17 percent above the average abandonment rate of 70 percent!
- 46 percent of online shoppers cite checkout speed as the number one factor that determines whether they’ll return to a site or not.
- 64 percent of smartphone users expect pages to load in four seconds or less.
- The point at which your website’s load time ceases to matter (because you will already have experienced all of the possible negative effects) is a mere 8 seconds.
Busy Lives Equals Little Time
Looking at the statistics, then, it’s only too clear that website optimisation is big business. And, if you’re honest with yourself, I bet you can remember the last time you got angry because a page took a second longer than you expected to load…or even half-a-second!
The truth is that we all lead extremely busy lives, and that even a second’s hindrance can wreak havoc on our immediate plans. Actually, perhaps the truth is that, thanks to the immediacy we’ve come to expect from our online interactions, our attention span is far shorter, and our patience more strained.
This point of view is perhaps best captured by the adequately succinct internet acronym “tl;dw” (or, in plain English, “too long; didn’t watch”).
Indeed, many videos which get to the juicy part in 10 or 15 seconds receive plenty of tl;dw comments, testament to the fact that, nowadays, digital consumers just don’t have time for unnecessary holdups and hiccups.
And this is a global phenomenon. In fact, worldwide, Internet speeds are increasing (according to Venture Beat) by 10 percent year over year. This means that more and more people have come to expect their online content to be served up quick! And this is compounded by the fact that, globally, mobile browsing has skyrocketed, and those using mobile devices to access the Internet expect lightning-fast loading times.
However, many companies may feel like they lack the time, technical expertise, and finances to improve their loading times. But, in truth, there are lots of things companies can easily do to improve their website’s loading time – and they don’t have to cost the world. The benefits are longer dwell-time, a better user experience, and no loss of potential sales before a visitor’s even looked at your website.
5 Tips For Shortening Loading Times
- Content Delivery Network – A content delivery network improves website delivery time by caching content through a globally distributed network of servers. A good content delivery service will save bandwidth, boost performance, and reduce hosting costs. A CDN is a service which saves website elements like media, design elements, stylesheets and scripts across its global network. Since users’ web browser retrieve the cached data from a server nearest their physical location, the latency is reduced and pages load faster. Modern CDNs, like Incapsula, also leverage the platform to provide additional security and high availability services, important to e-commerce websites and other online businesses.
- Web Hosting – With so many websites now live (nearly a billion), it’s imperative that you choose a good web hosting service. Many providers are willing to compromise on quality and offer a low cost service, because of the stiff competition. Even so, key to maintaining a high-performance website is opting for a reputable provider, such as DreamHost and HostGator.
- Image Compression – Image compression is a simple yet effective way to speed up your site and save bandwidth. Images make up a big part of web traffic, so you need to find a balance between good size and adequate quality without compromising loading times. Image compression makes this easier, and can be done online for free (this article lists some of the best tools).
- Browser Caching – Transferring web elements over a network takes time and costs money in the form of bandwidth consumption. Caching basically stores certain pieces of data on your visitor’s computer so that, they won’t have to download content in subsequent visits. The key here is in finding a good cache expiry value, to ensure a good balance between freshness of the content and loading speed. Varnish is a high-profile tool that helps websites optimize caching to improve loading speed.
- Plugin Management – Plugins are additional pieces of code that you can add to your website to allow, well, almost any functionality you can think of. The problem is that installing a plug-in on your site will inevitably have an impact on loading time, especially if it involves additional processing in the back-end. But using tools such as Plugin Organizer (which is available for WordPress), you can specify the order plug-ins load, and you can also select which plugins are active for each specific page or post. This means that plugins will only be loaded when necessary, improving loading speeds in the process.
Each of these five tips alone can make your website load faster. Combined, they can drastically speed up your site’s loading time. In a world when visitors can be put off (or worse, angered) by a wait of a mere second, it’s important that businesses do everything they can to keep their sites fast and efficient.
Are you worried about your website’s loading time? Have you done anything to speed it up? If so, what have you found that works? Let me know with a comment!