It’s a fact that browser speeds have a major impact on your ability to keep your website visitors around. Today’s users are accustomed to instant gratification, and the hassle of waiting a few more minutes for a page to load seems ludicrous when they can often find the same information on a dozen other websites in less time. On top of that reality, when you’re faced with saturated markets in the online space, you must be on top of your game to earn visitors’ loyalty, and the first way to do that is to cut down your website load time.
Load Times Impact Usability
Usability is an often-discussed consideration for web and graphic design. Image file sizes, complex websites and other factors can decrease the speed with which a page will load. As Internet connection speeds have become more rapid with advanced technologies, website publishers must keep up with the demand for fast-loading information if they want to keep their visitors around.
According to Marketing Land (reporting on recent findings by Radware), the average page load time for a major retail website is about 7.25 seconds. Interestingly, load times aren’t getting faster—but slower. That’s about a 22 percent increase from the average of 5.94 seconds in December 2011.
Website Complexity Slows Load Times
Other factors contributing to the slowdown include:
- User’s systems packed with cookies
- Spyware and malware
- Old hardware
Whether it’s the fault of the physical machine or a problem on the user’s end, websites that load too slow will turn visitors away. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your website loads as quickly as possible to minimize extraneous factors that are outside of your control.
Load Times Correlate Directly to Your Bottom Line
KISSmetrics points out that your page load times have a direct impact on the user’s experience—and on your bottom line. Do we let load times slide for better aesthetics? For more content? Or for fancy widgets and functionality that could impress today’s tech-savvy users? It’s a delicate balance, and one which must be carefully weighed and heavily tested to discover the sweet spot between functionality, visual appeal and the ability to keep visitors around.
Research indicates that load times are actually more important to most users than all those fancy graphics and functions anyway. Recent surveys by Akami and Gomez.com show that most users expect a page to load in about two seconds or less. If a page doesn’t load by the three second mark, many will abandon it. And it impacts more than just the initial visit: 79 percent of users surveyed say they won’t return to a site that once had performance issues.
What’s worse is that 44 percent of those users say they’d tell a friend or colleague if they had a bad experience shopping online. This means that your page load times aren’t only impacting your conversions today, but there’s a ripple effect that could spread among your target audience, ultimately giving you a bad reputation.
Load Times & Search Engine Optimization
Alongside the important implications of load time mentioned above, perhaps an even more critical aspect of website load time is the fact that load times are now beginning to carry weight when it comes to search engine rankings, as well. Google has never been conclusive as to how much load time directly impact search engine rankings, but a slow load time is diagnostic of a poor user experience, which is never a positive in Google’s eyes. That means a slow-loading page could potentially cause your rankings to slip—resulting in fewer visitors to your website to begin with. When slow page load times are the issue, you’ll have a more difficult time getting the visitors you do obtain through organic search to stay and see what you have to offer.
Page load times should be a key consideration in web design. Research clearly shows that users are demanding top loading speeds, and slow pages will quickly turn them away—straight for your competitors. Slow loading times won’t just lose you visitors; it will cost you money, as well.
Sara Anderson is a technology copywriter for Torchbrowser, a free and unique chrome-based web browser and software platform.