insights | 18.08.2021

Why Page Load Speed Matters and How to Fix It

Article topics
  1. What is Page Load Speed?
  2. How Fast Should Pages Load?
  3. Why Page Load Speed Matters for UX
  4. Why Page Load Speed Matters for SEO
  5. How to Improve Page Load Speed
  6. Final Thought

One of the main causes of consumers bouncing or abandoning your eCommerce website is slow page load speed. Waiting for pages to load adds friction to shopping journeys, reducing consumer engagement, conversion rates and eroding brand reputation.

Page load speeds are determined by a number of factors which we will explore in this article. But first, let’s define what we mean by ‘page load speed’.

What is Page Load Speed?

Simply put, page load speed is the length of time it takes for all the elements of any given page within your eCommerce website to fully load—from the point of clicking a page link to all of that page’s content (script, files, images and video) displaying correctly.

Page load speed is not the same as overall website speed, which describes the page speed for multiple pages across your site. Page load speed can also be referred to as page load time.

The longer consumers are made to wait for a webpage to load, the more likely they are to become disengaged and click away from that page, or even abandon your website all together. One of the first things to understand about page load speed is what is ‘fast’.

How Fast Should Pages Load?

For eCommerce, a good page load speed is considered to be two seconds or quicker. Slower than that and consumer bounce and abandon rate will begin to increase significantly. A massive 48% of consumers will abandon a website if made to wait more than three seconds for a page to load—that’s approximately a 16% reduction for every second a page load is delayed.

For optimum performance, Google recommends page load speeds of less than half a second.

Why Page Load Speed Matters for UX

As you might expect, the slower your webpages load, the lower positive user experience (UX) will be, resulting not only in consumers clicking away, but also adversely impacting conversions. This stands to reason as more streamlined, faster website navigation reduces friction on the path to purchase.

Poor UX can have a significantly negative impact on how consumers perceive your brand and business. Slow page load speeds reduce overall satisfaction with their shopping experiences.

A negative impression means that consumers are less likely to convert, and even if they do make a purchase, they will be less likely to return, less likely to recommend you to their friends, and less likely to leave positive reviews about their shopping experience.

Why Page Load Speed Matters for SEO

Faster page load speed is crucial for SEO. Page load speed is an important ranking factor used by Google in search engine results pages (SERP). The slower your pages load restricts how many pages Google can crawl, which is likely to negatively impact your website’s indexation, putting it lower in SERPs and making it less findable for consumers in organic searches.

Ensuring that your eCommerce website is optimised for faster mobile page load speed will help to increase SERP ranking, with your website offering consumers shopping on mobile and tablet outstanding UX for more unified, omnichannel shopping experiences.

Faster page load speeds on multiple devices will help to improve organic SERP ranking, with the first result on the first page gaining a significant 34% click rate.

How to Improve Page Load Speed

Run an audit

The first step to improving page load speed is to identify how quickly (or not) your pages are currently loading. Analysing page speed enables you to better understand how it might be improved. A website audit will establish page load speeds, with their performance significantly contributing to your overall website performance score.

eCommerce website audits are conducted by specialist eCommerce consultancies, who will report their findings and offer solutions for improved website performance, UX and SEO.

Optimise hosting

Often eCommerce businesses will choose the cheapest hosting option that fits they’re requirements at the time. That might be perfectly ok for their current business needs and goals, with website performance being fine and page load speeds being acceptable. But problems arise as the business grows, website traffic increases, more skews are added, additional and higher resolution media is used etc.

The website struggles to scale with demand as the hosting option is no longer right to maintain website performance, causing slow page load speed.

To ensure that your eCommerce website has the flexibility and resilience to scale with demand, partner with a specialist eCommerce agency offering dedicated, high performance hosting services with high availability and scalability, multiple virtual databases and automated deployment.

Reduce server response time

A significant factor for faster page load speeds is the time your DNS lookup takes. A DNS, or domain name system, is a server with a database of IP addresses and their associated hostnames. When a consumer types a URL into their browser, a DNS server translates that URL into the IP address that indicates its location.

The amount of time this step takes depends on how fast your provider is. If your DNS look up time is slow, consider switching to a faster provider to improve page load speed.

File compression

Smaller files load faster. That’s something that most people understand. This of course applies to your eCommerce website too—the smaller content files are the faster pages will load.

But the problem is that with smaller files resolution and quality can suffer. The answer to this issue is file compression—making larger files smaller. That way quality can be maintained, and page load speed is increased. This is definitely the case with large image and video files, especially if they are HD.

Asynchronous CSS and JavaScript loading

In addition to file compression, script code, such as JavaScript and CSS, can be optimised for speed with asynchronous loading. When script-load is synchronous, individual elements load one at a time, in the order they appear on the page. If they load asynchronously some of them will load simultaneously.

In other words, because browsers load pages from top to bottom, if a particular synchronous script takes a while to load the browser will wait until that file has fully loaded before continuing to load the page.

Conversely, with asynchronous script, the browser will continue to load other page elements while that slower script continues loading. The overall effect is that the whole page loads more quickly.

Minimise time to first byte

Another significant factor for faster page load speed is ‘time to first byte’ (TTFB). This is the time it takes for a webpage to start loading. TTFB is the time a browser must wait for the very first byte of a webpage from the server.

For optimum performance, Google recommends ideal TTFB to be under 200ms.

TTFB is linked to hosting, so the higher your hosting solution’s performance, the faster TTFB will be. TTFB is a common metric used to measure page load speeds. High availability server databases will help increase TTFB, with two other important elements of faster TTFB being caching and using a content delivery network (CDN).

Server caching

Server caching is an effective way to optimise page load speed. Caching stores copies of your website’s files, minimising the work required to serve up a page to a browser. This works in a similar way to browser caching—just done server side instead of by individual users.

Use a CDN

In addition to your host server(s), you can also use other server networks to deliver content for improved page load times. CDNs work by using a global network with the purpose of delivering faster and more reliable dynamic content. A popular CDN is Cloudflare, which offers content distribution with file compression and caching.

Cloudflare uses its global network of proxy servers to send content by the fastest route. This ensures that content always reaches its destination (the user) faster, regardless of data congestion. That content is then stored on the nearest Cloudflare server to ensure that subsequent visits to your webstore are served from that local cached content.

Servers that are overloaded or geographically distant can cause latency, slowing page load speeds, causing friction in shopping journeys and degraded UX.

Cloudflare can increase eCommerce website performance, dynamically distributing content for any device, so when traffic increases, your website is able to cope with demand, maintaining page load speed and positive UX.

Final thought

Offering consumers consistently outstanding shopping experiences is a crucial goal for every eCommerce business. One of the basic elements of low friction UX is fast page load speed. Achieving and maintaining faster page loads will help to optimise findability in organic searches, improve conversion rates and customer satisfaction, for higher customer retention and for stronger brand equity.

Maintaining a high performance eCommerce website requires specialist knowledge and expertise. If you are unsure of how fast your eCommerce website page load is then the first thing to do is have your website audited by a specialist eCommerce consultancy. Working with an expert eCommerce performance partner will ensure that your website is optimised for scalability, resilience and speed.

If you would like to know more about how your eCommerce website can be performance tuned, then get in touch today for a chat with one of our eCommerce development experts.

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