Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Speed Rules Successful Websites

Internet users do not like to wait. The taster your WebPages respond and the easier it is for the buyer to understand the page and take the next step the more successful the site.

a) Customer Insight

Customers made the following comments about website performance when they were asked to describe their experience with the website:

  • Horrible. It was kind of slow, and you had to go looking for things:'
  • Pictures take too long to load, and I don't have time to wait:'
  • Nothing happened. Oh, there it is. I'm just impatient."

Internet 2010Some websites performed slower than others, and customers became impatient. Some labels and buttons took too long to render. On one website, the add-to-cart buttons were so slow to appear that customers couldn't figure out how to add an item into the shopping cart, even though they had found the product.

b) Recommendations

The following are recommendations to improve website performance and speed:

  • Keep response time to 10 seconds maximum. Less for high-speed connections.
  • Utilize a fast server and a high-end Internet connection.
  • Minimize download times. Too often, WebPages load slowly, links are broken, and debugging messages pop-up on the site.
  • Use few graphics, small graphics, and cached graphics
  • Use task-sized product photos people want to see what they are buying. Use a small photo on the initial page. Link to larger photos with more details, and include several shots from different angles.
  • Don't use photos in long lists of products on category pages unless they help to clearly differentiate products.
  • Provide visual feedback to the customer if a transaction is going to take more than a second or two.
  • Test page downloads using Internet connection speeds representative of typical website visitors.

All pages accessed during navigation should download in less than 10 seconds. Download speeds can be affected by Internet usage cycles. Internet traffic and usage can be heavier on certain days, peak hours, and special seasons like holidays. Testing during different days of the week and at different times gives you a more complete snapshot of speeds and performance.

Even with high-speed Internet connections, many customers still access the web over telephone lines. If a first-time customer encounters extremely slow performance on the home page, she may transfer the perception to the rest of the site and may not continue.

Simple text loads much quicker than graphics. If performance trade-offs are being made, use simple text links instead of fancy font graphics on web pages.

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