There is an old adage concerning website performance that goes something like this: if your web page takes more than 3 seconds to render, your customers are likely to go to a competitor. Current research tells us it is much, much faster than that. More importantly, even very small differences between the speed of your page loads and that of a competitor’s can determine the fate of your digital marketing and ebusiness success.
Figure 1 New York Times, February, 2012
According to an often cited study from Google, people will visit a website less often if it is slower than a close competitor by more than 250 milliseconds. That is literally faster than the blink of an eye! As the New York Times reported when the study was released, web sites are in a constant battle between visual richness and the quick response times that our ever-shrinking attention spans demand.
What the study didn’t mention is the overwhelming amounts of data that modern online shoppers require. Elements like video, maps, location-based services, shopping cart data and personalized account info force your site to make more calls to the server in less time to deliver on baseline user expectations.
There are many ways to increase page speed, as we outline below, with caching (and CDNs) probably having the longest tenure. Some are more effective than others and all should be evaluated for your specific situation. Caching is the process of storing templated page data in a cache (temporary storage) between the main data store and the live site so that the server doesn’t get overloaded calling the same page elements (ex. header, sidebar, footer, logo and link data) over and over again. Caching solutions have been proven to be effective, however, there are various flavors of caching and caching alone is seldom the only mechanism to increase page speed and differentiate your site from your competitors.