As broadband internet connections have become more wide-spread and servers have gotten faster, the scope and complexity of websites have scaled up to keep pace. More often than not a lot of this is reflected on the front-end in the form of content-heavy, image-rich designs that are built from the ground-up to immediately engage and entice attentive audiences. But in our quest to shower users with information, issues regarding overall performance and load times have been tossed aside to make room for aesthetic and functionality. And while it's difficult to argue that these concessions shouldn't be made, it's becoming increasingly obvious that more effort needs to be invested to ensure that sites load quickly and smoothly.
Load Times Affect Everything
Let's keep things simple: the longer someone stays on a site, the more likely it is that they'll convert, and the longer it takes for a page to load, the less likely it is that someone will stick around. It doesn't matter if you run an eComm website, a lead-generation site, or a blog; page load times have a profound effect on a site's performance across an audience.
Some of the largest and most successful online companies understand this dynamic very well. Amazon, for example, reported that every 100 millisecond increase in load time results in a 1% decrease in sales. When Google managed to shave off 930KB from their Google Maps home page (going from 1000KB down to around 70KB), they saw a 10% increase in traffic the following week and an additional 25% traffic increase for the next three weeks.
But this doesn't just affect the big guys. Long load times hurt all sites equally because they annoy all users equally. What counts as "long" to an average user nowadays? According to a pile of studies, 50% of web users expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less, and 40% abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. Ever wonder why that Adwords campaign is costing you money but fails to produce any conversions? Take a look at how long it takes for your landing page to load.
To make matters worse for business owners and web designers, it turns out that the ever-expanding mobile demographic is just fickle as desktop users. While mobile users are willing to wait longer for a site to load on their devices (with the majority of respondents saying that they would wait 5-9 seconds), a 1 second delay results in a far higher abandonment rate, driving the overall conversion rate into the ground.
Slow and Steady Does Not Win the Race
Users will never complain if a page loads too quickly, but they will always complain if a page loads too slowly. And while load times can seem infinitesimal on paper, the time it takes for a user to move their cursor over to the back button is just as infinitesimal. Given the shifts that we've all seen over the past ten years and the increasing amount of competition, it would be foolish to start arguing that page load speed isn't an important factor in a site's success.