Website speed optimization is the make-or-break of user experience. Data shows that user engagement decreases by a whopping 25% for every second increase in a site’s loading time. The digi-world is marked by the very construct that it’s so much easier to get things done online. The World Wide Web is a competing space where the race is on to minimize user input and maximize the time of engagement. A well-designed website becomes redundant when its speed performance is below par, leading to higher churn rates and consequently a lower ROI.
If you’re under the impression that slow speed is not going to affect your revenue generation and that speed optimization is quite an effort for a minimal return, then you may find this statistic astonishing – A web giant like Google experienced a 20% drop in traffic due to an extra load time of 0.5 seconds once! So it’s no wonder that the gurus of the online world are forever finding ways to get their site speed a little faster than their competitors even by milliseconds. Moreover, ignoring this issue could lead to decreasing your overall visibility as rankings would plummet since Google and other search engines consider website load time as a key ranking factor. Once faced with such consequences, it can take a long time to fix it.
So what is a good load time?
While you may be convinced that getting a fast website up is a prime concern, it’s still vague and unclear as to what exactly is a fast website? Who decides which websites are fast and which are slow? To get a little more clarity, you can take insights from Google’s benchmark studies as the first step in optimizing your website performance.
Google decided to do its own testing and set up a neural net to determine how users interacted based on mobile page load speed. The neural net, which had a 90% prediction accuracy, found that as page load time goes from one second to ten seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases by a whopping 123%. Google now recommends that page load time be less than 3 seconds.
Another important factor they calculated was “Average time to first byte”. This factor determines how fast and responsive a mobile server is. For this parameter, Google recommends that it be kept under 1.3 seconds. Conclusion: A server that responds within 1.3 seconds and a page that loads fully within 3 seconds gives you the best results in user engagement.
However, it’s not that simple. It gets more interesting when you do a comparative analysis between mobile and desktop. Google’s data also shows that while more than half of overall web traffic comes from mobile, mobile conversion rates are lower than desktop. One of the prime reasons for this, desktop sites simply load faster than mobile sites. In short, speed equals revenue. Laying the bait with a fast loading mobile site is now more important than ever before, making it imperative to create a responsive site that is optimised for mobile and desktop so that user’s have a good experience on both platforms.
Leading online ventures make use of tools available in order to fix the crux of website optimization.
According to Google, website performance on speed contains four major elements:
- First Paint/First Contentful Paint (FCP): This parameter speaks about the experience “Is it happening?” It relates to how fast your server responds to the first-page load.
- First Meaning Paint (FMP)/Hero Element Timing: This parameter determines the first point at which your website shows meaningful content to the user in the load timeline. In order to optimize this variable, it is better to keep the contents of your site at a minimal. Cluttering a single page with too many elements leads to a slower load time. Design the website to ensure a higher click-rate on the content, rather than filling it all up at one go!
- Time To Interactive (TTI): This parameter determines when usable content is visible during load time. It marks the point at which your website is capable of responding to user input. This one is fairly simple to understand. A click on your website is determined by the keywords picked up by the search engine based on user query. How fast your webpage shows the relevant content to the user largely determines the churn rate.
- Long Tasks: This is the point at which the browser starts to execute your JS apps and starts performing long tasks. If these tasks take too long to run, the main thread is blocked and a lag will appear. Making sure that the longer tasks don’t take much time to start running ensures that your client is engaged, therefore, improving the overall user experience.
Once you’ve got these metrics, you can get started with these simple tasks that you can perform right off the bat to find out the reasons why your website is slow and improve its performance.
Lighter is better. Simply compressing your images goes a long way in cutting down on load time. Using fixed width and auto-height makes your images responsive. Another important factor to remember is to use the right format for images. When quality is a priority and modifications aren’t necessary, use JPGs. For icons and logos, use PNG format to save up on those precious bytes. Avoid using GIFs, BMPs and TIFFs. You can also use Image Optimization plugins such as TinyPNG, Imagify, Optimus and more.
Given that WordPress powers 1/3rd of all websites, we had to include some factors that affect these sites. WordPress websites have various bottlenecks that affect the speed. The key is to identify what is causing your website to slow down. While there are certain plugins that can improve your website loads speed, too many plugins or a large plugin can do the exact opposite. Identify plugins that are dragging your speed down using a Plugin Performance Profiler. You may want to delete the plugins that are outdated and/or are slowing down your website. Instead, install widgets where you can or find lightweight alternatives for plugins. If it’s becoming too complex to handle, you could get a WordPress management solution that will help you optimize your site’s speed.
Choosing an appropriate WordPress theme that serves your exact requirement is a key factor in determining user experience. However, using graphics-heavy themes, especially in the case of e-commerce websites that require a large number of product images will vastly drive down the value in terms of sales numbers, even if the UX is chosen to suit your exact needs. Remember that every second counts.
While revenue generation through ads is tempting, the negative impact on the overall UX is of serious consideration. The vast negative impact is that an ad-heavy site clearly outweighs the monetary benefit of selling your online real-estate. You may even have to face situations where the page will simply refuse to load if there is a service interruption due to the ads. Intrusive pop-up ads are aggravators that will only leave your customers irritated and easily ready to churn.
Typography plays a pivotal role in improving the user experience. Using selectable, searchable fonts can be done using web fonts. Consider which character sets are supported while picking a font. If your page requires support of multiple languages, you should use a font that can deliver a consistent look and experience to your users. Compressing web fonts, and foregoing the use of a “full” web font that includes all variants which may never be needed results in delayed text rendering.
In the online world, speed sells. To be outright, the true indicator of how well your website is performing is your sales performance. Saving up on those precious bytes automatically ups your website speed and allows you to continually deliver a stellar user experience in the online world. Even giants like Google, Walmart and Amazon continually test their performance keeping in mind the importance that speed plays in today’s fast-paced market. Simple tasks such as the ones stated above are surely going to help you deliver content that drives up user engagement by weeding out problem areas. Speed sells and it sells efficiently.
Website conversions are proportional to user experience on the site and an effortless website loading speed goes a long way in reigning in these conversions. Users visit your website looking for something that they need; the faster you deliver it to them, the more likely they are to come back.