Expectations for a Speedy Website

Posted on February 29, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

A recent article in the New York Times raised an issue that has been on my mind for a while:  How fast is fast enough for website response times?

The research cited in this article supports the need for speed and the impact website performance has on user perception and behavior.  Users expect sites to respond instantly or they click away from them.  And the expectations seem to be increasing–they want faster response times.

The article, written by NYT Technology Journalist Steve Lohr, reports that users of websites have become incredibly impatient and expect web pages, whether on a mobile phone, tablet or laptop, to respond instantly.

How instant does your website need to be?  According to this article, web page typically takes on average 9 seconds to load on a mobile phone, and 6 seconds on an average personal computer (the US seems to be a bit faster, at 3.5 seconds, on average). A Forrester Research study in 2009 found that online shoppers expected pages to load in 2 seconds, and many left if it took more than 3 seconds. According to this article, 250 milliseconds is the magic number now for competitive advantage on the web.  If a site is much slower, users will navigate away.  The research found that 4 out of 5 users will click away from a video site if the video stalls while loading.

Expectations are continually rising, forcing companies to rethink their online presence and speed up the response times of their sites.  The research found that a response time of 4 seconds used to be enough, but more recently users click away if the response time is more than 2 seconds.  Some suggest the 2 second rule is not even adequate any longer.

Successful speedy companies have policies and practices that focus on, and reward, speed.  For example, Google, famous for it’s speedy searches of the Internet, has organizational components to insure fast response times.  Google has a “Make the Web Faster” program, a companywide speed budget, and a policy that new products must not slow down Google services.

How important is speed to your customers and what do you do to meet those expectations?  And what is the tradeoff for your business–what do you have to sacrifice in order to speed up your website’s response time?  It’s something to think about if the consequence is the loss of customers whose impatience keeps them from doing business on your site.

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