- Users expect websites to load in 2-3 seconds or less
- Speed depends on how it’s measured
- Speed optimization has to be weighed against trade-offs
Most of today’s websites are fast. So fast, that you generally don’t think twice about them loading—that is, until things slow down. As a user, you expect a fast-moving internet on every device you use, from your mobile phone to your Google Home.
It should be no surprise, then, that digital marketers are in a race to make their websites slimmer, faster, and—as a result—easier for users to access without frustration.
But, how fast is fast enough? In this blog, we’ll break down the subject of website load speeds and look at all the factors that need to be weighed before deciding to build faster and faster for the sake of speed itself.
Ain’t nobody got (load) time for that
It’s been quite a while since AOL used to hand out those free discs to set up your home dial up internet connection. In other words, people are generally used to high-speed internet with near-instantaneous load speeds.
In some ways, this has lowered our tolerance for sites with slow load times in the same way that the invention of the automobile made horse-drawn carriage rides a tedious affair. If a user feels your site isn’t moving fast enough, they’re more likely to leave than to try to stick it out.
This has led to a race to get faster and faster. For example, even Google—practically a speed demon—is working to make their search faster and faster, down to omitting certain search results that can be solved with a function of their own.
How fast is fast enough?
In general, experts agree that a site that loads in about 2-3 seconds is fast enough for most users. Naturally, Google is going for more ambitious goals, but a site full of images, plugins, and tracking codes has a certain speed “ceiling” set in. No matter how much you press the foot to the gas, there’s a limit to how far to the right the speedometer can go.
There may also be good reasons not to push the car past its breaking point. For example, a site owner obsessed with speed could continually compress images, again and again. However, there’s a tipping point where the speed gains are incredibly small, while the images are so compressed that they look terrible on the site. Obviously, a slow site isn’t great for user experience, but neither are pixelated, blurry images.
We’re faced with this question a lot. The truth is that it has to be a balance: are the right tradeoffs being made for speed gains? If tracking shows that a Google Maps plugin is popular with users, is purging it from a page to gain a few milliseconds of speed all that worth it?
Of course, that’s before we even talk about margin for error.