Combating load-time. King Content's advice for webpage frustration.

January 14, 2011Uncategorized

We all know how frustrating it is to stare helplessly at a web page while it battles with slow Internet speeds and refuses to load. Not only is this extremely annoying but it can take away vital hours from your working day, creating a back-log of problems and a growing mountain of work. (Which like Catch 22, you can’t tackle efficiently because of the speed of the webpage download).

For business owners, the speed of webpage-load (especially when facing slow internet connections) could be a make-or-break for business.

Imagine it as a customer walking into a shop or a restaurant, if they don’t get service, then they get frustrated, leave, and look elsewhere. The same stands for online. If you come up against a site that struggles to load (could have far too many images/flash), then you ultimately get frustrated, click out (increasing their bounce rate) and give your business and browsing time to another online site.

Study has shown that user frustration arises astronomically if a web page takes 10 seconds or longer to load and that broadband users are less tolerant of web page delays than narrowband users.

33% of broadband shoppers are unwilling to wait more than four seconds for a web page to load, whereas 43% of narrowband users will not wait more than six seconds (Akamai 2006)*

Websites that give feedback to their users (in the form of progress bars etc) are much more likely to retain a readership when facing slow download speeds. In a study by , Fiona Nah**, she found that wait time without any form of feedback or progress was on average 5-8 seconds. With a progress bar, this increased to 28 seconds.

It’s therefore quite important to think about the size of your page. Even Google (who you would assume can counteract anything online) does this. The homepage of Google Maps was reduced from 100KB to 70-80KB, and the result (which was clear after just one week) showed an increase of traffic by 10% and an additional 25% in the following three weeks. Translate these into user figures and you’re talking millions.

This rings true from the opposite perspective too… Microsoft did some research into the area and discovered that for every second extra the load time took, their sales decreased by 1% and their ad clicks by 1.5%.

So, look out how efficient your site is – especially your homepage and any major links to category pages. Implement progress bars when it’s taking a long time and regularly test its speed and efficiency. Frustration arises towards 8 seconds, but the key is not let your site get anywhere near that wait-rate in the first place. Strip some images, flash, and generally do a bit of site maintenance with efficiency in mind. Although it’s important for your site to look appealing, a balance between large file/overuse of design and load-speed must be met for you to make successful conversions.

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* WebSiteOptimization.com
** (Galletta et al. 2004).