Speed kills

[tweetmeme source=”ChazGunningham” only_single=false] A few years ago I picked up a stat from I know not where that “after 8 seconds, if your web site does not load and users know where to go, 50% will leave the site completely“. I reckon that is more like 2 seconds today.

Two seconds. Reminds me of the highway code saying “only a fool breaks the two second rule” – except in that case it is to always keep two seconds behind the car in front.

Slow sites make people angry. They are time poor and usually are into your web site to get some information quick, and then they want to get out. They won’t bother with a slow loading site, and worse, they will never come back and will tell others how bad your site is. Google ranks slow sites low, so your free SEO traffic can suffer too.

What makes a site slow? A few things:

  1. Badly coded – long lines of unecessary code, in inefficient order; your programmer needs to be relentless in forever optmising how things are done (as someone wiser than I argued, this is not a one day job, it is an eternal journey)
  2. Graphics – usually the culprits, with unoptimised images taking up far too much room, and/or over reliance on imagery where clever use of shades would work just as well aesthetically
  3. Server intensive – dynamic sites, such as real estate ones I have experience in, need to generate their pages from a database, “live”, almost in “thin air”; so the underlying database needs to be super fast, and some scripts can be cached
  4. Flash – generally not a good idea in the era of iPads and iPhones, animated flash graphics not only get generally ignored by Google, they slow your site down horribly
  5. Bad connection – poor internet speeds to your computer or office could be to blame, and larger sites might struggle; your ISP may also be responsible
  6. Externally embedded media – those youtube videos may be cheap, but they can have a nasty effect on your web page load times
  7. Someone’s highjacked your mail server – if your site suddenly labours almost to a stop, it could be that a spammer has taken over your mail server, and is trying to send out thousands of emails from it per second

You can check how you fast you are loading (and compare yourself to others) using the free web site tool at WebSitePulsePingdom breaks down what is loading (in sequence) as your website opens up. Both are useful tools to keep an eye on.

In the end, as Apple 1997-2012 has proved, if you build a better user experience you can become extremely successful. Great user experiences are what people demand and expect these days, and if you don’t deliver it, they can easily switch over to someone who will give them what they want… and fast. So, remember the two second rule both when you are driving, and in building and hosting web sites.

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2 thoughts on “Speed kills

  1. Great article. It’s all about the user experience and we don’t like waiting for something once we click. Google doesn’t like it either and a slow site will affect your rankings too.

    I find that the location of the server where the site is hosted also plays a huge factor in site speed. The difference could be a few seconds. eg my blog is hosted in the US and from a local (US) test location the site loads in 1.4 seconds where as from an Australian test location the load time is 2.2 seconds. It’s only a second and is not so bad for my site. However if the site is more resource intensive it could be the difference between a good site and a great site.

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