The existence of design trade-offs between usability features for consumer products has been discussed in textbooks and other publications for decades (e.g. Norman, 1986). These trade-offs exist because optimising one particular feature has direct ramifications for another. Page load time is one such example.
Page load time plays a fundamental role in the overall user experience for a user on your website. However web usability is often overlooked and its efficiency is often sacrificed, for example, to accommodate a more aesthetically pleasing design. As with many trade-off decisions, it is all about using your intuition to ideally find the ‘happy medium’, the optimum value, where the marginal cost of a faster page load time equals the marginal benefits received. But this requires more information. What does the evidence suggest?
- According to a case study from Radware, Just over half (51 %) of online shoppers in the U.S claimed they would not complete a purchase if the website they were using was too slow.
- During a different study, Radware revealed that website users are becoming more demanding of the page load time, that is they have higher expectations, than even merely a few years ago. But what do users expect?
- Studies have shown that just under half (47 %) of website users expect a website to load in under two seconds. During times of particularly heavy traffic, three-quarters of consumers are more than willing to visit a competitors website to complete a transaction, rather than enduring a slow web experience.
- This is supported by a study in March 2012 by TagMan, with the Aberdeen Group concluding that with every one second delay in page load time, page views fall by 11%, customer satisfaction by 16% and conversions by 7%.
- According to a reliable scientific study conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, tolerable page load time is approximately 2 seconds. You can push up the tolerable waiting time to a maximum of 38 seconds by adding feedback, such as, a progress bar. Hence, if your business website is unavoidably slow, you must seriously consider adding progress bars or equivalent.
John Ekman explains in an article on Unbounce that a quicker page load time will improve your ranking and thus organic traffic.
Here is a link to Google's advice on best practices to optimise page loading time.
Check Website Speed
There a host of free tools to check page load time. For example, Pingdom allows you to test the speed of any URL, identifying potential bottlenecks and other causes of slow speed. Take a look at other free tools like YSlow, PageSpeed and WebPageTest.
Page load time clearly impacts your users experience within your website, with every second directly impacting the bounce and conversion rate. Not only will a slower loading time lead to more users leaving your website, but the additional impact of users informing their colleagues and friends will have a further negative effect. Although it is only 1 of around 200 variables in google’s determining algorithm, improving the speed of your website will have a positive impact on its page rankings and should therefore not be overlooked. Aim for a page load time within the golden timeframe of 2 seconds.