CXO

Should you care about the speed of your company's page loads?

Load page speeds cause people to ditch your sites. How slow is too slow?

Technology changes happen so fast. So do our expectations.

For example, it wasn't that long ago that some of us were gleefully using dial-up connections to access the web. That's because we were unaware that that connection would soon seem as slow as erosion. We didn't know that its attractive counterpart, Mr. Broadband, was waiting just around the corner for us, with his nearly instantaneous access to information.

We're all still kind of in the honeymoon phase with smartphones right now. Because they can give us driving directions or restaurant recommendations, and provide us with hours of mindless recreation while we wait at the doctor's office, we don't seem to mind that many pages load slower than they do on traditional computing devices.

As a matter of fact, the recently released SOASTA 2013 Website and Mobile App Report said that 76 percent of Americans surveyed were willing to wait 10 seconds for a page load on their smartphones. Where did they conduct this survey, Mayberry? I just assume that the page isn't going to load after 5 seconds. There's no way I'm sticking around for 10.

(An interesting side note: The developers who were among those polled, however, did not agree with the 10-second wait. One developer I spoke to adheres to the "Holy Grail" of web page load speeds-anything under three seconds.)

I think it's safe to say that once people get past their initial awe at being able to look up box scores from their favorite watering hole, they're going to be demanding faster page loads on their mobile devices. This means that those sites that still take over ten seconds to load are going to be ditched and/or associated with negative feelings from the consumer.

In fact, 28 percent of those surveyed said they would visit a competitor's website if faced when the slow screen load; 18 percent would not visit the offending web site again.

Dude, that's a lot of lost chances.

What can you do?

Slow web page loads on mobile devices can be due to a number of reasons. Ryan Bordreaux, TechRepublic's Web Designer blogger, says "While large graphics and multimedia content such as embedded videos do contribute to the latency factor, there are others such as the mobile device itself, the wireless network, the mobile network, the mobile provider, and the location of the mobile device in relation to the nearest active signal."

For mobile sites, it might be wise to look at the factors your web designer can affect-like cutting down on large graphics and multimedia content. Ryan suggests designers use a "waterfall" approach, in which the majority of the content is loaded within the first few seconds, while other content takes longer. (That is, all non-JavaScript-enabled content loads first, while the media rich content is still loading or buffering.) This, at least, gives the user something to indicate the page is loading.

You should try to log on to your company's web site from a mobile device and count the seconds until it loads. It just might give you something to think about.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

2 comments
lastchip
lastchip

If I have pages that don't [i]start[/i] to load in under 3 seconds, I'm seriously looking at the underling problem. If all else fails, I'll ditch the page completely and rethink how that content can be rendered. I deal with a lot of photographers sites and getting them to upload images at lower resolutions is an uphill struggle. So I let them do one or two and then tell them to go and check Google Analytics. When they come back puzzled why their bounce rate has shot up, they soon begin to understand speed is everything and image quality is secondary! Whether you can see the tiny pimple just behind the left ear lobe is irrelevant.

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