Nobody wants to wait for a website to load.
“People hate to wait,” Andy King states in the opening line of his book, Speed Up Your Site (New Riders). “The Web is essentially a self-service environment. A core promise of self-service is speed. A customer turns to self-service to save time, to save money and because it is more convenient.”
Some of the key points Mr. King addresses in his book include:
- How responsive your site is will in large part determine its adoption rate, which in turn affects your bottom line.
- People perceive fast-downloading pages to be of high quality, while they associate slow-loading pages with inferior quality products and services, compromised security and low credibility. Lower user satisfaction can lead to abandoned websites and shopping carts.
- The longer people interact with a website, the less they will tolerate delays.
Call us spoiled or impatient, but the fact is that the Web-using public doesn’t want to wait at all. If your landing page loads at anything slower than the speed of instant gratification, you run a serious risk of losing your customer. As webpages grow in complexity, page load time can take longer and longer. This can translate into a loss of readers, page views, advertising impressions, click-throughs and ultimately, a loss of revenue.
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Here’s more convincing evidence of how a fast-loading website can affect your bottom line.
A major high technology publisher recently shared this data for their Mequoda Internet Hub that will allow them to generate $5.3 million in extra revenue during the next 12 months. An upgrade of their content delivery system decreased page load time by 17 percent and increased total page views by 12 percent. The financial implication:
Revenue Impact of Making Webpages Load Faster
|Average Load Time (secs)||87||72||-15||-17%|
|Annual Impressions (000s)||1,386,000||1,552,320||166,320||12%|
|Revenue per M||$32||$32||$-||0%|
What Can You Do to Create Great Webpages That Load As Fast As Possible?
According to Mequoda Library contributing editor and iProduction Founder & CEO Steve Laliberte, “The key to figuring out why your pages are loading slowly is to figure out why your code is slow, and then understand the things you can fix to make it faster.”
To measure how quickly a website downloads on various Internet connections, we turn to our trusty online website optimization tool at WebsiteOptimization.com.
This is a no-cost webpage analysis tool that calculates page size, composition and download time. Plus, it offers speed recommendations based on best practices for usability, human-computer interaction and website optimization.
While the Web Page Analyzer is not a 100 percent accurate measurement of how quickly your site loads, it will provide you with a snap shot. Optimally, your site will load in 15 seconds or less at 56K.
If your site is too heavy with graphics, try using an image compression software such as Ulead SmartSaver Pro or PhotoShop. These programs optimize your Web graphics and enable them to download faster without much loss of color or detail.
Here are some other ways to make a webpage load faster that were suggested by Mr. Laliberte, who is an experienced software publisher, computer systems analyst, trainer and author. (Don’t get bogged down in the technicalities. If you don’t understand all the jargon, ask your webmaster to implement these suggestions.)
landing page guidelines:
- Eliminate as many non-essential images as you can.
- Use system typography instead of images for navigation. Use a background table cell color instead of a reverse image to create a rollover effect.
- Reduce the overall size of the initial HTML page. Fewer lines of code always load faster.
HTML generators like FrontPage and Dreamweaver produce very long and inefficient code. And every time you change something, they introduce an extra set of tags.
As an alternative, try editing the code by hand. By doing so, a skilled programmer can usually cut down the number of HTML tags by 50 percent, compared to a page that was created by an HTML generator or WYSIWYG editor.
- Some HTML browsers have trouble with loading multiple levels of nested tables. A skilled programmer can reduce the number of nested tables by examining the code closely. Don’t worry, they’ll know improperly nested tables when they sees them. Here’s a tip: if you can’t figure out where a nested table starts and ends, the code needs to be rewritten and simplified.
- Use a small, effective style sheet to reduce the redundant definitions of font, size, color, effects and other attributes of objects. Reference images in the style sheets. Use short style names.
- Avoid serving ads from an external server. Resolve the ad requests on your server and produce a single line of HTML that requests the image. Move the ad server so it generates and delivers a single line of HTML that names the ad and the entire relevant click-tracking information in the link. Do this in a language that produces outbound HTML.
- Explicitly define the width of tables and cells, and the width and height of images. The browser will not have to wait until the entire image or contents of the table are loaded to begin displaying them.
- Use “valid” HTML or XHTML to enable the browser to process the code more efficiently. Many browsers have a “quirks” mode that is slower, but much more forgiving of little mistakes.
- Never, never put a Java applet in an HTML page.
- Minimize interactions with the database. Try to resolve all database calls and simply display the data in HTML on the page. If you must interact with the database, select only on indexed fields.
Think Globally When Preparing Your Online Content and Avoid Making Cultural Assumptions
The Internet is available to surfers in nearly 100 countries, so if you have the right niche content, you’re likely to get subscribers from all over the globe.
Subscribers to your English language content will likely be read in Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India, Barbados, the Bahamas, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, the United Kingdom and throughout the English-speaking world. That includes such diverse places as Israel, Kenya, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates—all countries where English is the official or unofficial language.
That means if you write in “American” English, you need to be careful to avoid using slang or referring to U.S. television programs or other exclusively American cultural icons.
Also, avoid using a joke that depends on English language ambiguity for its punch line. It may fall flat or even offend.
It’s also a good idea to avoid local geographic references such as calling it “The Lone Star State” without first identifying it as Texas.
Additionally, you should avoid posting large inline graphic files and always offer text alternatives (HTML ALT codes). That’s because many international subscribers are likely to have narrow bandwidth Internet connections, making the downloading of large images difficult and frustrating.
If you have a large graphic that is important content, consider putting it in a separate file folder and giving your members the option of downloading it. Be sure to tell them how large the file is in kilobytes.