What ‘fast’ means for websites
Website load time measures how long it takes to completely deliver a whole site or page. It applies to content such as text, photos, and videos as well as the behind-the-scenes technology.
Speed depends on things like page type, file sizes, user behaviour, and your website’s hosting. Coding, linking, and the number and type of customisations, plugins and widgets your site uses also affect its speed.
There are some different ways to measure site speed and page speed and they are all significant for overall performance. These include how long it takes:
- for web browsers or mobile devices to receive the first response from your server when a page is chosen (Time to First Byte or TTFB)
- to receive a complete response from a server (Response Time)
- to completely load a page (Page Load Time)
- to load the largest text or images (Largest Contentful Paint or LCP)
- between a user clicking or tapping on a link and the browser starting to function (First Input Delay or FID).
Website speed statistics
If your site loads on a mobile device in 10 seconds rather than one second it will have a 123% higher bounce rate. That means people are much more likely to arrive at a page and leave immediately. On average you have about three seconds to impress mobile users before they move on. Pages accessed using desktop devices typically take between 2.5 seconds and 8.6 seconds to load but the FID is much faster than mobile devices.
Ecommerce sites are designed to attract visitors, improve engagement, and increase conversion rates. Improving website speed enhances visitor experiences, allowing them to navigate easily to access information and make purchases quickly. If they have to wait for pages to load they will simply go to another website.
Making your website faster
Finding the right solution when you know loading times are slow and your site isn’t optimised for mobile users is difficult. Google Lighthouse reports provide a free audit of your site’s performance. They measure how quickly a website loads and how soon users can access it. To make it easy to understand performance is rated from 1 to 100 based on a number of factors.
There are also page speed tools to help optimise images, scripts and content such as Swissup Labs, for example. You can see performance data for desktops and mobile devices along with advice about how to make improvements.
Steps you can take include optimising high-resolution images. Graphics are a vital part of your site’s user experience but can affect the loading speed. Larger image file sizes lead to slow load times. Your site designer can make sure images are compressed for good performance without compromising visual quality.
Minimising coding also helps to improve website speed. Using file compression and decompression tools like gzip can make a big difference to page speeds.
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) distributes website services geographically. Hosting your website in different locations around the world minimises delays for your international customers because your servers are nearby.
You also need confidence that your hosting can meet the needs of your users in terms of traffic and content type. This requires reliability and high performance to avoid bottlenecks that can slow down load times.
If you have migrated to a new platform, moved or deleted pages you could use redirects to take visitors to new pages. However, this can slow things down so it’s worth reviewing your options first.
Enabling fast and flexible searches
Along with page speed, your site should also make it easy for visitors to find the information they want. This requires simple and intuitive website navigation and high quality user design (UX). It’s especially important for organisations in the arts and cultural, ecommerce and heritage sectors.
When a website can potentially have thousands of pages easy access to each one is a major challenge. While many platforms have a native search option it isn’t always the best solution.
Much depends on the type of content and the needs of users. Scalability is also worth considering so you can make sure high quality content won’t slow site speed in the future.
A component-based user interface framework like React, for example, offers a powerful alternative search approach to support users’ page access. It breaks data into separate indexes for fast access and seamless user experiences. Because it’s modular and flexible it provides plenty of scope for growth.
Case study: Gresham College
Gresham College in Holborn, Central London, has provided higher learning since the sixteenth century. It doesn’t have students or award degrees but instead delivers over 140 free public lectures each year. All lectures given since 2001are available to a global audience online.
Making the College’s lecture database more widely available was a high priority when it was time to renew the website. Working with Un.titled the College wanted to ‘package, present and promote’ its valuable content for increased audience engagement.
Extensive UI and UX work enhanced accessibility for everyone. Users can sign up for personalised membership accounts and individual feeds and registrations for events and lectures. The React app played a key role in delivering faster load times. Faceted internal searches allow users to focus on specific events, speakers or pages. Enhanced filtering options also improve user experiences for the What’s On, Watch Now and Speaker pages.