As we are in the new age of impatience and instant gratification, almost everything is expected to be available and ready immediately. If people are required to wait, they lose patience and their attention wanders.
This is equally applicable to websites and online marketplaces, where customers expect the pages to load instantly.
Studies show that the average time it takes for a page to load is 4.7 seconds on a desktop computer or laptop, and 11.4 seconds on a mobile device.
Online retail shops are even more susceptible to longer page load times due to being incredibly data-heavy, which can be caused by various factors such as the number of DNS lookups, too many http requests, uncompressed files or large images, a high number of redirects or outdated CMS.
Any such delay will cause a decrease in customer satisfaction and is a huge defining factor in conversion rates.
According to Google, a site loses around 50% of customers if the load time is longer than 3 seconds, meaning bounce rate and cart abandonment are affected.
Customers also view any kind of delay as a lack of professionalism, therefore it is clear that first impressions are imperative to ensure repeat business.
In addition to this, websites that have slower page load times are ranked lower in Google search results.
Since the number of mobile searches overtook desktop searches a few years ago, Google now ranks websites according to the optimisation of mobile versions of websites.
This adds another motivator to increasing the page load time, if you want your website to be seen first.
Fortunately, there are many online resources available to help optimise your website and increase page load speed.
The first thing to do is to run a speed test using a tool such as GTMetrix, Pingdom or Google PageSpeed Insights. This will tell you the areas that need to be improved in order to optimise your website.
Running your website through these systems also reduces the server response time (DNS lookup) as the DNS is cached, otherwise switching to a faster provider is another solution.
In addition, various other tools and plugins can be used to improve specific areas.
Working with Google Developer Tools for example, can be beneficial to assess and assist with:
Minimising the number of http requests on your webpage, thereby reducing the amount of elements needed to render in order to load the page.
Reducing the time to first byte (TTFB), the optimum time of which should be less than 200 milliseconds to wait to get the first byte from the server. (This can be affected by dynamic content, web server configuration, traffic and network issues)
Text and image file compression.
Other tools that can also be very useful with file compression include:
GIDNetwork, which does a compression audit.
WP Smush plugin that allows Wordpress sites to compress images without losing quality.
GZip, a data compression algorithm that compresses and decompresses files, reducing the amount of data needing to be transferred.
A Lazy Load plugin, which works by only downloading images that are visible to the viewer at any one time and reducing the number of HTTP requests.
Other areas of your website that can be optimised include CSS delivery, which can be cleaned up using a number of tools such as CSS Minify, Code Beautifier and Dirty Markup.
While you can find a number of plugins to target specific areas of your website that could be causing the page to load slowly, too many plugins can also affect the speed. For this reason, it is most advantageous to use plugins with multiple functionalities.
Resource for figures: machmetrics