Do Download Speeds Matter?
Do download speeds matter? Yes. That answer is an example of how internet users want websites to work: i.e. they want them to display instantly. When it comes to download speeds cuddles and tickles are unimportant – just get right into the action.
Website users crave speed the same way the boxer Muhammad Ali did when he was the heavyweight champion. He once said: “I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.” For Ali, fast wasn’t fast enough. You should have the same motto when it comes to your website.
But what is fast? The answer to that is two to three seconds at the most. That might not sound like a lot but two or three seconds is a long time in the world of the internet.
If your website takes longer than three seconds to load, here are a few things your users could do while they’re waiting:
- Website load time of 10 seconds – your users could peel an entire head of garlic
- Website load time of 8 seconds – your users could be falling in love
- Website load time of 6 seconds – your users could read the resume of a prospective job candidate
- Website load time of 4 seconds – your users could watch a pit crew change all four wheels on a Formula 1 car – twice!
But the reality is they won’t wait that long.
Almost half of users expect a website to load in less than two seconds; while as many as 57 percent of internet users will abandon a page that takes more than three seconds to load. If you want viewers and customers to stay on and engage with your website, download speeds matter.
Conversions, Traffic and Search Engines
Very small increments of time are noticeable to web users. Take Google as an example. It experimented with giving 30 search results per page instead of 10, something which increased its page load time by half a second. The result was a 20 percent drop in traffic.
Yahoo also sees variations in traffic related to page load times. Its traffic increases by nine percent when it reduces page load time by 0.4 seconds.
But it’s not only just about traffic. Sales are also influenced by how long it takes a website to download. Walmart and Amazon have both reported sales increases of one percent when they reduce their page load times by 0.1 second.
All of these examples are from massive companies that generate huge volumes of traffic and big sales. But the principals remain for websites of all sizes – users want fast loading pages.
Search engines also take load times into account when deciding on where to position a website in the results. However it’s only one factor of many – 200 or so at Google. So while search engines do care about download speeds, this should not be your main motivator for making improvements. Your main motivator should be traffic and sales.
How To Improve Download Speeds
There are several things you can do to improve the load time of your website. Firstly, use Gzip compression which can reduce file sizes by as much as 70 percent. You should also put your CSS in an external file instead of loading it in the HTML of your pages. Minimizing HTTP requests, like scripts, style sheets and images, also helps. And staying with images, they should be optimized for the web which mostly means reducing their size.
Some other things you can do include using a Content Delivery Network (or CDN) such as the Akamai Site Accelerator. It works by downloading your website from a server closer to the location of your user, which is faster. You should also go easy on the use of 301 redirects. They confuse browsers and slow them down, which ultimately increases your website load time.
Think of your website like your pizza delivery options. If the delivery takes too long you will probably change pizza supplier. Pizza delivery times should be fast, and the download speed of your website should also be fast.