Speed — The most important (and underrated) metric on the web

Speed — The most important (and underrated) metric on the web

March 30, 2019

“Speed is the most important feature. If your application is slow, people won’t use it.” -Fred Wilson, 10 Golden Principles of Successful Web Apps

People hate waiting, and will go out of their way to avoid it.

It’s been trending this direction for years — people have coined this era “The Age of Instant Gratification.” Parents complain that “This generation has no patience anymore.”

It’s pretty obvious why: Technology has spoiled us. And not just the kids, but the adults, and their parents too.

We all spend more and more time on our screens, and because of that, we have high expectations. We expect the laptop to boot quickly, we expect that YouTube video to load right away, we expect our emails to send the moment we click “Send”.

With all this information seeming like common sense, you’d think website owners would prioritize loading speed as an important business metric, right?

Of course not. It’s just not sexy enough. Why worry about performance when we can cram another high-quality stock photo on our page?

My point isn’t to rile up website owners, but if you do own a website, please understand this: People are most likely visiting your site on a smartphone. Smartphones often connect to the internet on-the-go, using 3G, 4G, etc. These types of connections are very often spotty, slow, or unreliable.

With that in mind, ask yourself: Is it really worth it put performance on the back-burner? If a website feels sluggish on a laptop, it’s going to feel much worse on a smartphone. Most people waiting 5+ seconds for a website to load will probably just assume the website is broken and move on.

Speed affects the bottom line

Slow websites are strongly correlated with high bounce rates and lost sales.

  • Slow websites receive a penalty in Search Result rankings on Google [Source]
  • The BBC lost 10% of its users for every additional second it took their site to load. [Source]
  • A page that was 2 seconds slower resulted in a 4.3% drop in revenue per user. [Source]

Even minor differences will impact business results.

  • A 400 millisecond delay caused a 0.59% drop in searches, on average (Google Study). [Source]
  • A 400 millisecond delay resulted in a 5–9% drop in full-page traffic, on average (Yahoo Study). [Source]

On the other hand, sites with fast loading speeds will reap the benefits:

  • Pinterest gained a 15% increase to both SEO traffic & sign-up rate by reducing page load time by 40% [Source]
  • Reducing loading time by 2 seconds on Mozilla’s landing pages resulted in a 15.4% increase in conversions (60 million more downloads per year) [Source]
  • At Walmart, every 1 second speed increase garnered up to a 2% increase in conversions. (Allowing them to stay relevant with their biggest competitor: Amazon) [Source]

So next time you’re thinking about adding a new WordPress plugin or analytics tracker to your site, consider whether or not the benefits outweigh the cost to performance.

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