WEB DESIGN -- Page Load Time Is Important
Author: David Buxton
Christian Ministries, Please Pay Attention!
Zona Research estimates that over half of internet business opportunities are lost because of slow-loading websites. They estimate the lost sales to be $25 billion. Their estimate was $4.35 billion in 1999, so the problem is getting worse in spite of more high speed internet connections. Much of that business gets driven to sites like Amazon. A lot of Yahoo.com traffic has moved to Google.com simple because Yahoo is bogging down with features that have slowed it down. On Amazon you don't see any large images until you are ready to view a specific product. One survey found that customers perceive that slower websites sell lower quality products.
Christian ministry sites (and churches) should pay special attention if your site is heavy with graphics. It should be made clear that you are loosing a considerable amount of witnessing potential because your website is too slow.
Only those who are already dedicated to your cause will wait around while your site takes it's time loading the page.
Slow Modems Required
Everyone who is serious about web design should have access to a slow connection to the Internet so as to test your site's page-load times for the benefit of site visitors who have slower-than-normal Internet access speeds. Subscribing to a 56K modem service does not cost all that much. Use it once in awhile to check out the websites you design. A high percentage of the internet still runs very slow and most webmasters have high speed connections. The result is a big disconnect between webmasters and a significant percentage of the visitors to their websites.
Make It Optional
The webmaster with a fantastic home page flash scene has no idea how many visitors never see the website because they thought it was dead even after patiently waiting a minute or two. Feature a link to your fancy flash page rather than making your home page act like Fort Knox.
Occasionally I see a site that loads quickly and then offers me the option of whether I want the slow fancy version or the fast simple version of the website. Click here to skip intro is a signal to most people that the site will be slow even after they click the intro. They click the back button instead.
The first priority is that a web page start loading as soon as possible. I've had to wait one and even two minutes for a page to make it's first move. Visitors are much more willing to tolerate a slow loading page if it starts to load immediately and the most important information they are looking for appears quickly, even if the last and final entity appears a considerable time later. Quite often a visitor wants to start with the home page and click through to the content they are looking for. It would then be especially annoying if the navigation system comes up last (a left sided navigation system will load sooner than navigation on the right side of the page).
by Tom Dahm
Quote: "Slow-loading pages are the bane of the Web. In fact, surveys routinely cite slow pages as the #1 complaint about the Internet. A study by Zona Research found that 1/3 of visitors will leave a Web site that doesn't load within 8 seconds. With figures like that, load time should be a major design consideration for your pages.
"In his book, Designing Web Usability, Jakob Nielsen states that a fast load time should be your most important design consideration. These are strong words from the Internet's leading usability guru."
Tom goes on to say that: "Since 35 % of Internet users are surfing the Web using a 28.8k modem or worse, that puts a severe constraint on the size of your web pages. Generally, you want your page and all it's graphics to be less than 40k in size."
Note that Tom is basing these comments on a 1998 GVU survey by Georgia Tech. Average Internet performance has improved since then, but we still have a significant percentage of slow internet connections out there. My country phone line is one example, which explains my passion for this topic.
We recently surveyed 1854 users and found that the regression weight between "download speed" and overall satisfaction was 0.264 in a multiple regression to predict users' overall satisfaction ratings from six different attributes of Web quality. In comparison, "looks great" only got a regression weight of 0.08. Simplistically stated, our users thought that speed was more than three times as important as looks.
- Dr. Watson for Internet web pages determines how fast your page would load at several different connection speeds. Also does link checking, search engine popularity, etc. Does one page at a time.
- Load Time Checker calculates load time and compares your site with other example sites. Lists the graphic files and comments on whether they are small enough.
- WebOptimization.com's Webpage Analyzer.
Nielson Report 2004
Based On File Size
Zona Research reported in 1999 the following statistics on how many users are willing to wait for a page to load:
- 10 sec -- 84%
- 15 sec -- 51%
- 20 sec -- 26%
- 30 sec -- 5%
Combining 2003 modem speeds and the above percentages results in the table at the right. Page Size is the total of file sizes for all the entities needed to load a page. The right hand column lists the increasing percentage of people who leave the site as the file sizes total increases.
In The Big City
Your point perhaps, is that your church is in the Big City and everybody has high speed Internet. Not everybody! Some are still using a 56K modem card in their PC. Many don't pay the higher cost of a high speed connection. What about potential visitors from out of town deciding on which church to attend when they arrive? What about visitors from all over the Internet who will have missed out on the evangelistic content of your site because they didn't wait long enough?