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One second, the defining factor in success or failure. An insight into Web Performance Optimization.

Performance

Nowadays, we are all in a constant rush and becoming more and more impatient. We need to pay our bills fast, quickly late order a birthday present for our loved ones, find a nice last-minute vacation deal swiftly or just get this interesting article loaded rapidly on the screen. Most of us are looking for fast and safe websites that are able to offer such content to us instantly. This is not an extravagant user need but a necessity, an obvious expectation. To be able to face it properly, you need to execute Web Performance Optimization.

“According to Aberdeen Group study, 1 second delay means 11% fewer page views, 16% decrease in customer satisfaction and 7% loss in conversion.”

A multitude of case studies and tests spread across the web, prove how web performance optimization is affecting end users and businesses. A fast and reliable website should work as a business card for any firm and it is crucial for any business to understand that slow website will draw back potential customers from their resource and badly affect their bottom line. There are no second chances when it comes to poor user experience. Benefits of a well-optimized page are undeniable – better conversion, greater visibility, lower bounce rates, better customer impression and user experience, greater engagement with the content provided and lower abandonment rates. Moreover, site performance score will influence position ranks for search engines such as Google. Speed is one of the main advantages over your competition! Do not make your potential customers seek alternatives.

How fast is fast enough?

In 2018, Google shared an analysis of the average speed index on mobile (4G) across a few industry sectors.

IndustryUSUKGermanyJapan
Automotive6,3 s6  s6,3 s4,8 s
Consumer Packaged Goods6,6 s6,1 s5,6 s5,7 s
Finance5,9 s5,1 s5,2 s5,1 s
Healthcare5,4 s5,6 s4,6 s4,9 s
Media & Entertainment5,5 s5,5 s4,5 s4,8 s
Retail6,3 s6 s5,6 s5,2 s
Technology6,7 s6,8 s5,5 s5,4s
Travel6 s6,7 s4,8 s5,6 s

 

Average for the above is 5,63 s. Most of the sources are suggesting aiming for 3 s max, some below that mark. But… is this fast enough? In 2009, Google has discovered that even 400 ms has a measurable impact on the number of searches per user. That is a blink of an eye speed! But hold on… Does it have to be that fast?

First of all, you need to analyze your site speed and compare it against your direct competition. Armed with such knowledge and assessing your budget limitations you can start building your case. By now, you already understood that speed is an individual aspect depending on the type and size of your business and surrounding competition. Everything comes at a cost, but remember that optimizing your page speed is one of the most affordable and lucrative Return Of Investment expenditure, that you can bet on.

Why is Web Performance Optimization so important?

To answer this question you must perform those five steps for sustained success:

Measure. Compare. Monitor. Optimize. Repeat.

Measuring and comparing:

Google Speed Scorecard might be very helpful here. It will allow you to understand how fast your pages load over 3G or 4G speed. Moreover, you’ll be able to check out how does your competition performs, so you can compare them against your results.

Monitoring:

You need to be able to constantly assess how does continuous updates with new content or features affect website performance. Analyzing website metrics will help you to understand where are the bottlenecks and where improvements are necessary. There are various tools and techniques available to help you out with this task. Consider synthetic or real user monitoring, or combine both for best results.

Synthetic measurement: a simulated health check of your website. The most common tools that can help with this are GTMetrix or Sitespeed.io.

 

TestArmy Web Performance Optimization screen

Screen: Monitoring dashboard on sitespeed.io


Real User Monitoring (RUM): a form of passive monitoring that constantly listen to all website traffic. It gathers an enormous amount of data for analysis. mPulse or SpeedCurve are the examples of tools that may sort you out in this matter.

Optimizing:

Before you’ll start optimizing existing pages, you should remember that, if you have a chance to influence the design stage, push your Product team to a Mobile First and flat design philosophy. This approach, by default, will make a new website very fast. Otherwise, you need to find out what bottlenecks are bothering the site. You can use various tools such as GTMetrix or Pingdom that will analyze its structure and provide you with a starting point. As this aspect is highly individual, the most common offenders will be described below.

  • Optimize render blocking resources and load them asynchronouslyDefer non-critical things that stop the content you need to be displayed rapidly
  • Page bloat – Optimize your page resources (images, scripts, fonts, HTML and CSS)
  • Utilize of Content Delivery Network – Serve content locally to your customer
  • Hosting – Choose wisely when it comes to your website hosting solution
  • Reduce the number of HTTP requests – Combine files, scripts and stylesheets where possible
  • Inline CSS and JavaScript  – Where possible render small CSS and JavaScript from the HTML
  • Fix broken requests – Identify and fix broken links and images
  • Enable GZIP compression – This may reduce the size of your website by a huge margin
  • Use browser cache – Make sure you enable caching on the server side and client side
  • Declutter CSS, JavaScript and HTML – Remove redundant content and avoid improper use of certain rules
  • Defer off-screen images – Load images only for the screen view of the visitor
  • Reduce Redirects – Redirects create unnecessary HTTP requests which badly affect speed. Keep them at minimum or rule them out entirely
  • Customize Time To Live headers – All static content (images, CSS or JavaScript) should have customized TTL, so returning visitors won’t download them again

 

Finally, the last step – REPEAT.

 

Follow the lead.

Evangelize your company culture towards investing in Web Performance Optimization to become a leader in your industry. Those who made such a decision, surely do not regret it.

Netflix saw a whopping 43% decrease in their bandwidth bill after one simple optimization. They have enabled GZip compression. In result, an immediate reduction of huge outbound network traffic

Wikipedia optimized their load times by 66% and radically saved on server costs. Various changes resulted in decreasing pagespeed from 7.5sec to 2.5sec for Wikipedia contributors

President Obama fundraising platform was optimized and improved speed by 60%… this move yielded an additional $34 million. Is this impressive or what? They have improved on serving content over CDN, that simple

Mozilla managed to speed up loading times by 2.2 seconds. That move resulted in a 15.4% increase in download conversion. They concentrated on combining JavaScript files and inlining CSS in HTML

Pinterest made a move to rebuild their pages for performance and as a result, they reduced user waiting times by 40% and conversion rate to sign up increased by 15%

Zalando reduced their loading times by mere 100ms and noticed an increase in revenue by 0.7%

AliExpress cut load time by 36% and saw a 10.5% increase in orders and a 27% increase in conversion for new customers

Lessons learned.

By now you should be hyped and motivated to start and lead a change within your business. Use existing case studies, research and other resources to build up your case and educate those surrounding you about the importance of Web Performance Optimization. Demonstrate such evidence to decision makers in your company and initiate a transformation mission. Those who don’t follow the new pattern will be biting the dust.

TestArmy provides complex Web Performance Optimization services. We’d be glad to answer your questions and quote your project. Learn more on our TestArmy Performance Test page.

Do not wait, optimize now.

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Jakub Wąsikowski

Jakub Wąsikowski 11.02.2019

Tester with 3 years of experience in delivering top quality software. IT and new technologies enthusiast. Ardent Web Performance Optimization educator.

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