Your site visitor’s experience starts with waiting for that first page to load. Does the speed of a website really influence visitors buying decisions on it? You bet it does. New research from e-commerce websites backs this perception up with lots of hard data.
Improving pageload speed helps:
- Increases conversion rates, page views, and time on site
- Decreases bounce rate and overall site operating costs
- With Google ranking, which takes the speed at which pages are served into account
In this post I’ll update you on the research, share some simple and free tools for measuring web performance, and show how simple improvements can yield dramatically faster sites.
Research Shows Faster Web Performance Helps Sites
Firefox and Shopzilla aren’t in the same business, but they both rely on their websites to convert visitors to users. Both companies created versions of their sites with cleaned-up code that looked the same but loaded faster. Each site split traffic, running the optimized code in side-by-side competition with their normal site.
The results were stark. Firefox measured a 15% increase in demo downloads, resulting in 60 million extra downloads from the optimized pages. Shopzilla measured up to a 12% increase in conversions.
And Slower Performance Hurts Sites
In order to measure the real cost of slow website performance, Microsoft served up slower pageloads to a segment of their audience. Reductions in user satisfaction were measurable by adding just two-tenths-of-a-second delay. And even once page speed was improved, the group that had experienced slower load times persisted in ranking the site lower and converting on it less.
This chart of results show that delays over half a second hurt a website’s business metrics. Web performance isn’t an IT issue; it is as core to User Experience as visual design. And it again illustrates why marketing departments must define their own technical and platform strategies. See Google’s presentation of this research.
How to Measure Your Page Performance
The good news is that it is easy to benchmark your site performance against competitors, and there are simple and inexpensive steps to yielding results that increase conversion.
- Google Page Speed Tool: This is an open-source Firefox/Firebug add-on you can use to diagnose the performance of pages. It provides specific suggestions for improvement.
- Gomez Advisors Industry Benchmarks: Each month, Gomez measures the performance of top sites in over 100 industry verticals. This lets you compare your performance to likely competitors.
- Google Webmaster Tools: The Google spider visits lots of websites, and Webmaster Tools can tell you how your site on average performs against the Web in general.
- YSlow: A free tool from Yahoo! that suggests ways to improve website speed.
- WebPagetest shows a waterfall view of your pages’ load performance plus an optimization checklist.
How easy is it to improve a website using these tools? Check back as I’ll share results on how I’ve used these tools on real sites. You’ll see these simple steps do in fact work.