In a world of instant gratification, there’s nothing more frustrating than a website that takes forever to load.
We’re used to speedy tech; we want everything at our fingertips within seconds. If a website doesn’t deliver on that expectation, then people will simply move along to a site that does.
For companies, slow-loading websites can mean lost business opportunities. For organizations, it can mean lost opportunities to get their messages out. Organizations need to invest in a high performing website for both desktop and mobile devices, or they’ll get left behind.
If you’re thinking this problem was long-ago solved, consider this: A survey in 2017 by research firm eMarketer looked at the actions taken by U.S. digital device users when they experienced problems viewing content.
The survey asked respondents to say when they would “stop altogether” using a website. Forty-seven per cent of respondents said content that took too long to load was their number one reason for abandonment. Other reasons included:
- Content is too long – 47 per cent
- Having trouble interacting with the content on the device (e.g. links and buttons not working) – 45 per cent
- Content/images won’t load – 44 per cent
- Content not displaying well on the device – 34 per cent
So, how fast is fast? According to Google, 53 per cent of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.
Robin Eldred, director of advertising for Communicatto, a digital marketing company in Calgary, says Google recently made slow-loading websites a ranking factor.
“If your website loads slowly, you will be penalized accordingly,” he says. “As with anything from Google, they don’t tell you to what degree it factors in but they made it clear this is an official ranking factor – the speed of loading up your website.”
Google uses a program called AMP, Accelerated Mobile Pages. It’s a stripped-down and simplified version of a mobile page or a mobile version of your desktop page which Google hosts. “So, they host it and they serve it out and it’s an equivalent page,” Eldred says.
Because it’s not as feature-rich as a regular web page, it loads super-fast. Google also gives preference to AMP pages on its mobile search results.
“It comes down to the user experience,” Eldred says. “The user experience is sort of this holistic experience that someone has when they visit a website. It combines a wide variety of factors.
“How fast does it load? How good does it look? How clean is it? How good is the language? How smooth is the video? All that stuff holistically rolls up to a user experience. If everything else is great, a slow-loading website can just cut it off at the knees.”
As telco’s have invested in networks and infrastructure to deliver fast internet speeds, people expect websites to load instantly.
“And there’s so much more information out there. People have so many more options,” says Eldred. “There’s no excuse for having a slow-loading website.”
Where a website is hosted can affect its load speed. Experts advise you don’t skimp on a web host and avoid those that host thousands of websites on one computer.
“If a handful of people are trying to access some of those websites, it makes everybody slow,” Eldred says. “That’s not to say you’ve got to go out and spend $1,000 a month on your own server.”
It’s best to make a smart decision about web hosting and avoid technical issues right off the bat. With the help of a web developer, you can take relatively simple steps to speed up your site including optimizing your images and removing/reducing the number of plug-ins or extensions you have on your site.
Think of your website like a messy house. Maybe it’s time to declutter.
“A slow-loading website, if you look inside, it’s cluttered. There’s crap everywhere. You need a specialist to come in and organize everything,” Eldred says.
“Really, 99.9 times out of a hundred, you need to hire a web developer. You need to suck it up, spend a little money, hire a web developer, someone who can come in and know the development tricks to speed things up,” he says.