As Sonic the Hedgehog once said, ‘Gotta go fast’. True for anthropomorphic blue hedgehogs, true for websites.
When you are building your perfect site, you might consider the design. After all, you want it to look attractive, and easy for your potential site visitors to read. You might also consider the user experience – can visitors parse your site and find their way to where they want to be without difficulty? Finally, you might consider how well the website runs. Does it function well enough and quickly enough?
However, is this the right way round? Should site performance really be relegated to bottom of your priorities list, or should it actually be the thing you are most determined to get right from the off?
Is your website costing you clients?
People don’t like using slow websites. That isn’t an opinion, or a piece of conjecture, it is borne out by statistics. Nearly 80% of site users say that they will not go back to a website if it previously had an issue with load speed. People expect your site to work, and to work quickly. Indeed, 47% of users expect your site to load in less than 2 seconds. As many as 3% of users will quit the site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. It isn’t just desktop sites that can struggle with loading expectations. As many as 85% of internet users expect a mobile version of a site to load as quickly as a desktop version.
How do we measure website speed?
Website speed doesn’t just have a single metric. It is measured (generally) using three scores:
- First Contentful Paint (FCP) – the time it takes for a user to see the first content on a page. This is relevant, as separate elements of a page are generally loaded individually, not all at the same time. It is possible for your site to show a user one part of a page before it is all ready.
- DOMContent Loaded (DCL) – the time it takes for all the code on the top and bottom of a page to load. Not all parts of a site load at the same time.
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – the time it takes for the page’s main content to have loaded.
The Importance of Speed for SEO
Google’s exact ranking criteria is somewhat of a mystery. SEOs are feeding on crumbs when we attempt to understand how Google understands and chooses to rank pages. However, one thing we can be certain of the importance of is site speed and performance. Google always tries to offer the most relevant and useful content as search results for its users. One of the ways that it measures this is through site speed and performance. While average speed sites won’t see a massive change if they are to speed up, sites that load slowly are punished significantly in their site speeds compared to faster sites.
Website Speed and User Experience
Users don’t like using slow websites. This is hardly a revelation, but many websites still seem unaware of it (or unconcerned by it). If your website is slow to load and slow to use, people are going to give up on it – especially if there is an easier and quicker to use alternative elsewhere.
‘Bounce Rate’ Is the frequency at which people leave your site after starting to load it. Even pages that load within 2 seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%. Pages that load within 5 seconds have a bounce rate of nearly 40%. If your site takes as much as 10 seconds to load, then you may see as many as 65% or more of site visitors leave again.
Slow sites don’t convert
When people come to your site, they want to be able to do whatever they came to do quickly and easily. If you sell a product or service, you need people to be able to start their path towards whatever conversion you want from them as easily as possible. According to Google, sites that have a one second faster load time improvement can increase mobile conversions by as much as 27%.
Particularly for ecommerce sites, you need to ensure that the parts of your site where you want visitors to make conversions work as quickly and effectively as possible. If you were to earn £100,000 a day through your site, a one second page delay could cost you as much as £2.5 million in lost sales over a year.
How do we improve site speed?
There are a few steps that we will take to improve your speed on an existing site.
- Understand the problem. We need to do a full site audit to understand what parts of your site might be slowing it down. This might turn out to be something as simple as changing the format of the images on your site to a more friendly format. It might alternatively be a lengthy process of rebuilding your site to be more mobile friendly. It is important we do this audit so that we accurately tell you how much work is necessary!
- Build a plan of action. Not every slowing aspect of your site necessarily needs to be dealt with. Rather, it’s more important to determine which issues are more pressing. We will then determine with you which elements would be most valuable to work on.
When we build a new site, we will always focus on your site’s speed as a given. Our websites are all built mobile first, whether they are ecommerce focused or reliant on form completions. We don’t take speed for granted, or as an afterthought. Instead, we build sites to be fast and effective from the beginning.
To learn more about how we build sites, or how we could improve the speed of your site, get in touch with us. We can talk you through what we’d recommend for your website, how we’d do it, and what improvements we think might be useful in the future.