Your site is getting traffic, but conversion rates are horrible. Everything seems to be working, so what’s wrong? Your site may simply be to slow.
Load Times – Are You Driving A Ferrari or Moped?
Give some thought to the sites you have visited of the past few weeks. Were you willing to wait 20 seconds for a site to load or did you hit the back button? Why would visitors to your site behave any differently? They won’t.
Webmasters, designers and site owners universally access the web through high-speed connections. Because of this, it is easy to forget roughly 45% of surfers use dial-up connections. While your site may appear to load quickly on your high-speed connection, have you tried loading it on a 56k connection? The results can be shocking.
Sites that appear to load quickly on a high-speed connection can take forever on 56k. It is not unheard of to find a “fast site” actually takes 30, 50 or 80 seconds to load on a 56k. Sometimes, the load time is so slow the browser will actually “time out” and fail to show anything. If your site has this problem, 45% of the hits are worthless. Worse, those frustrated surfers are unlikely to try to access your site in the future even if you fix the speed problems.
How fast should a page load on a 56k connection? As fast as possible, but no slower then 25 seconds. If you can get 56k load times below 10 seconds, you can turn a negative into a competitive advantage. Surfers come back to fast sites.
Determining Load Times
The best way to determine the load time for your site is to actually use a 56k connection. While this solution isn’t particularly technical, it will let you see exactly what your prospects are seeing when they visit the site. You will be able to see what loads quickly and what appears slowly. This should let you isolate particular elements in need of optimizing.
Server statistics can also provide you with evidence of slow load times. Are users spending a lot of time on entry pages, but not visiting internal pages? Either you have poor content or a loading problem.
Finally, you can also use diagnostic programs to test load times. Typically, the programs will kick out estimated load times for dial-up, DSL and T1 connections. Make sure you test your home page and internal pages. Diagnostic programs are excellent tools, but don’t get lazy. Make sure you physically watch your site load on a dial-up connection. The experience will prove invaluable to improving your site and conversion rates.
The steps needed to improve the performance of your site often depend on the nature of the site. A database driven site will have different issue than a graphic intense site. There are, however, universal factors that can be checked:
1. Graphics: Typically, browsers have to make a connection for each image on a page. The more you have, the longer the load time. Limiting the number and size of graphics can help.
2. Tables: If you use tables, try to break them up into smaller modules. Large tables can negatively impact load times.
3. Multimedia: If it flashes, explodes, spins or blinks, consider ditching it. Yes, it looks great, but is it worth 45% of your audience?
4. Size: Scrutinize the size of your pages. The bigger the page, the slower the load times. It shouldn’t be a problem if the page is comprised of text, but large pages with lots of code will load slowly.
Cheer up if you have a speed problem! Yes, you’ve lost a lot of business, but now you can fix it. Most of your competitors will never figure it out. That puts you ahead of the game.