On the Importance of Web Site Speed

by | January 18th, 2012

Site Speed Loading Matters More Than Ever

Recently our CEO Thomas Powell was interviewed for a piece in ChannelPro SMB called “How to Boost Speed On Slow Websites. The article got me thinking about how crucial page load speed has become, and how universally important it is to everybody involved in website development. Poor performance is a silent website killer of sorts. You can spend valuable time and money testing different buttons and layouts to squeeze the most out of your conversion rates without realizing that the real culprit is the extra second or two of page load time. And if Google’s opinion matters to anybody, it’s time to listen up.

Studies performed at Google and Amazon about the effects of site speed on revenue showed staggering results when site speed was increased by mere milliseconds. These studies are a few years old, but there’s one constant that will never change: human impatience. In fact, the situation is only getting more complex.

A few reasons you need to pay attention:

  • Mobile browsing is on the increase – Mobile browsers account for 8.66% of U.S. web traffic as of January 2012 (statcounter.com) which is over 9 times  that of IE6! If you’re spending more time optimizing and developing for IE6 visitors than for mobile devices, it might be time to re-assess that decision (stats vary by industry, check your analytics!).
  • Mobile devices and browsers are not created equal – Apple alone has been releasing a new iPhone every year since the original in 2008. Add iPads, Android-supported phones and Blackberry for a complex matrix of devices that have a wide range of CPU power, not to mention graphics support. Further reading on craftymind.com.
  • HTML5 and other new technologies – Many developers are (deservedly) excited about all of the open-web and social plugin technologies that are becoming widely accepted in web development like jQuery and HTML5. The downside is each slider, animation and social plugin that gets tacked onto a website can add precious milliseconds to the overall load time.
  • The “add more servers” mentality won’t do the trick – Often times people misdiagnose and mistreat site performance issues and try to band-aid the problem with additional hardware. Besides being ineffective, this fix is just plain wrong. As Thomas puts it, “Adding a server is like opening another checkout line in the supermarket. It is not speeding up the transaction, however. These are two separate issues.” Instead, focusing on lightweight and effecient development is the proper way to a quick page load.
  • You can’t always count on fast internet connections – We can’t expect our visitors to be accepting of slow performance due to their own internet connections because when some companies get learn how to make sites fast, the rest become at fault for poor performance. If your site doesn’t pop like amazon.com or omnicell.com (client), you could be boring visitors with fast connections and losing visitors who have slow ones. Have you ever tried to load a heavy site on a busy wi-fi network? Don’t.

So How Do You Speed Up Slow Sites?

The first step, as with anything is awareness – realizing through analytics (Google offers site performance testing via Webmaster Tools), testing or online tools (we use http://www.webpagetest.org/) that your site isn’t performing to its best abilities (chances are, it’s not). Then, educate yourself on the options and pick the one that fits your issues, needs and budget. Whether it’s software, hardware or bringing in a site optimization consultant like us to further diagnose the issue, money intelligently spent on speed is money spent on helping your customers do business with you.

Intrigued? Flip through Thomas and Joe’s recent Web Performance Presentation that was given for the Magento Webinar Series.



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