When thinking about website performance, the most immediately visible factor for your site is speed.
That is to say that a website that loads slowly is not as well regarded as a website that loads more quickly.
However, all too often publishers of websites fail to recognize exactly how page speed impacts the user experience and, ultimately, how successful the website is in driving its mission forward.
Understanding how site speed and performance impact your website goes deeper than simply establishing that a faster website is better than a slower website.
- How does the user feel?
- What is happening at the server level?
- How is the owner of the site or the publisher affected?
In this article we will dig into the consequences and ramifications of a slow website and how you can turn site speed into a competitive advantage.
Site Performance and the User Experience
The first way that site performance impacts the user experience comes when site visitors are simply trying to access your content in the first place.
With more and more competition for ever-shrinking attention spans, there is simply no margin for error when it comes to site performance.
Research shows that internet users expect websites to load in less than three seconds.
Slower than that and traffic declines at an alarming rate.
Imagine for a moment what that means: a human came to your website looking for information or a product to purchase and left before they got what they were looking for.
For all the effort you put in to attracting visitors in the first place this possibility should be downright terrifying. A slow-loading, poor-performing website means that visitors are abandoning the site itself not because your design or content are unappealing but rather because your website is too slow.
Furthermore, more than half of all web traffic is coming from mobile devices on connections that are slower than those available to desktop and laptop computers.
With the stakes so high, site speed and performance has never been more important.
Site Performance and the Customer Experience
The second way site performance impacts visitors comes when those visitors are actually potential customers. When the experience of shopping online is slow and clunky, it is incumbent on store owners to recognize that customers have a wide range of choices online.
If your eCommerce site it slow, if pages don’t load quickly, or if shopping carts and checkout processes do not move quickly, then customers will simply leave your website and go somewhere else.”
If you own and operate an online store it is imperative that you optimize site performance not just while visitors are browsing product pages but also when they choose something to purchase and try to complete that transaction.
If the purchasing experience is slow and clunky then potential customers will leave and likely never return.
Site Performance and Technology
One of the oft-overlooked aspects of site performance is the effect of performance on Search Engine rankings.
Believe it or not, search engines like Google factor site speed into their ranking algorithms.
Slower sites are penalized in search results while faster sites are rewarded.
When you step back and think about it, this practice makes sense. Search engines exist to provide the best possible answer to the user’s search query. Part of the “best” answer is the one that presents itself quickly and completely.
In other words, if every time you clicked a search result from Google or Bing the resulting page took 5 or 10 seconds to load, you would be disappointed and maybe even aggravated. Over time, you might even choose to use a different search engine to locate information entirely.
Speed is a critical part of succeeding with search engines and neglecting performance while trying to achieve higher search engine rankings is a fool’s errand.
Site Performance and Your Brand
The impact of site speed and performance listed above are reason enough to pay attention to how quickly your web pages are loading and how quickly your shopping cart is operating. But even if that were not the case, you should understand and appreciate the impact of site performance on the perception of your brand.
Whether operating a business website or a site for your personal hobby or interests, you want to put your best foot forward. It isn’t putting your best foot forward to offer visitors a website that is slow and faces challenges in loading all elements, images, and content.
Think about your brand in another way.
Imagine you choose to visit a car dealership with interest in buying a car. And suppose the salesperson you are speaking to says, “Thank you for stopping by…take a look, here is our best car!” And when you look at where they are pointing, you see a car that barely rolls straight, sounds awful, and is in dire need of a new paint job.
That’s the impression visitors are left with when your website is slow and performs poorly.
Website performance is a reflection of your brand, and a slow website that frustrates users will give them a negative perception of you.
An Entire World Dependent on Performance
When you take all of the factors listed above into account, it should be clear that site speed and performance are not only important; they are crucial to your website’s success. Whether you are simply sharing your personal thoughts on a blog or promoting your business and selling goods online, site performance has never been more important.
Savvy site owners and publishers are vigilant in looking for ways to improve site performance. Be one of them.