Here at Austin Digital, we’re fond of making quickly loading websites. We have all visited websites only to be greeted with frustratingly long loading times. Poor web design could lead to poor website performance and this has often been cited as the number one reason for people abandoning a page. In order to keep your place in the extremely competitive world of online business, it is essential that your website offers high performance and ease of use. Statistically, if your page takes even just four seconds to load, you can expect a 25% abandonment rate. If it is even slower than that, your abandonment rate will increase exponentially. In conclusion, every second counts.
A word on mobile internet users
With today’s super-fast smartphones offering comparable performance which rivals that of the average laptop computer just a few years ago, mobile users expect their browsing experience to be comparable to what they are used to on a laptop or desktop computer. Over the next year, mobile browsing will even overtake desktop browsing, so it is even more important to cater to this rapidly increasing demographic. While some people still expect mobile Internet performance to be slower, they are now very much in the minority.
In spite of the rise of mobile Internet, more than half of users currently experience problems on a regular basis. Many sites are still poorly optimized for the small screen and touch interfaces. For this reason, you must be prepared to thoroughly test your website on mobile devices, including a range of smartphones with different specifications, mobile browsers and tablet computers. Using responsive Web design practices or having a separate version of your website which loads when a mobile browser is detected are two ways to overcome many of these problems.
Long-term effects of poorly performing websites
If someone leaves your website due to long loading times, it is not very likely that they will return. Instead, they will probably go straight back to Google and search for an alternative. As a result, your business will have probably permanently lost a potential customer. Some statistics claim that a one second delay in loading times is roughly equal to a five percent drop in your conversion rate. If you are running an e-commerce site which has a turnover of $10,000,000 per year, for example, this equates to an annual loss of $500,000!
Poor performance can also be bad for search engine optimization. If your site is poorly designed, makes excessive use of poorly optimized multimedia features and is difficult to navigate, it is not likely to stand well in the search engines.
Things which create poor site performance
There are many design factors which can harm a site’s performance, but here are some of the most common.
- Poor optimized graphics. All on-site graphics should be properly compressed. Use thumbnails to represent larger, higher quality images, which when clicked on, open the original image.
- Video and audio content which automatically loads when someone visits the page. Not only does this take up a great deal of bandwidth; most visitors will also find it intrusive.
- Elaborate, graphics-intensive themes. Every business wants to have a great looking website, but going overboard on design themes and styles can lead to considerable performance drops.
- Flash and Java content. Avoid such content for navigational features. It is slow, not compatible with a lot of platforms, and such content cannot be indexed by the search engines.
- Too many plugins. Many sites make use of content management systems in order to avoid complex coding and make maintenance and updates easier. A lot of these have a wide range of plugins available. Use only those you need.
- Poorly optimized coding. Poor coding such as bloated HTML, CSS or jQuery content can cause all sorts of performance and reliability problems with your website.
Sometimes, the problem might not be with the website’s coding and content itself, as explained below:
Bad hosting company. Some Web hosting companies are just plain rotten when it comes to performance. If you suspect your host is causing the problem, it may be time to change, or at least upgrade to a better hosting package if your host provides one.
Too many visitors and not enough bandwidth. Once your site gets busier, you will need more bandwidth to accommodate the increasing number of visitors. If you don’t have enough, performance will decrease.