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Going Sub-Second?

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A website’s load time should be faster than a blink of an eye. Quite a tall order? Not really, and we’re getting there. Speed is important for the sites’ analytics but more so for the customers who are either purchasing something online or getting some info.

In the blink of an eye

Load time refers to the time that a web site takes to load all of its elements for them to be viewed by the user. Just how fast is a blink of an eye? It is about 400 milliseconds or less than half a second. This speed however is still considered slow for our current standards of what a fast web page should be according to some experts.

For Google engineer Arvin Jain, it should be faster than a blink of an eye. According to Harry Shum, a Microsoft scientist, if a site is slower by 250 milliseconds compared to other sites, the user will less likely to visit it.

The old 2-second guideline

In 2009, a study by Forrester Consulting (conducted on behalf of Akamai, a company that specializes in making the services of web sites faster) among online shoppers, show that the threshold is 2 seconds. 47 percent of the customers expect that a site will load in 2 seconds, and 40 percent of them will not wait for more than 3 seconds before leaving the site.

Back in 1999 the acceptable load time for a site is 8 seconds. It decreased to 4 seconds in 2004, and 2 seconds in 2009. These are based on the study of the behavior of the online shoppers.

Our expectations already exceed the 2-second rule, and we want it faster. This 2012, we’re going sub-second. The unit for measuring load time now shifts from seconds to milliseconds. But do our expectations meet the actual load time speed?

A study of 1 billion page views

In mid-2011, New Relic monitored 1 billion page visits for a period of 1 week. They had some interesting findings. It takes 6 seconds for a web page to fully load. An average person visits 88 sites per day, senses delay just 1 second after clicking, and spends 10 minutes per day waiting. We can stil break down the 6-second average – 0.6 seconds (transaction time caused by the server), 1.4 sec (network), and 4 secs (browser).

Six seconds will almost feel like years. It’s important to highlight here that the actual load time basing on the data last year) is far from the sub-second, blink of an eye speed that the experts are proposing. It may also vary from site to site – Google is still one of the fastest, if not the fastest.

The faster, the more visitors

Google already included load time in their parameters for ranking sites. Although it may not play a vital part compared to the other parameters (amount of traffic and links), yet the speed of load time greatly affects the behavior of the visitors of a site.

The Gomez Peak Time Internet Usage study conducted by Equation Research in 2010 revealed that more than 75 percent of users transfer to a competitor’s site rather than suffer delay, 88 percent will less likely return after a bad experience, a single bad experience caused half of the respondents to express a less positive perception of the company, and more than a third told others about their bad experience.

A mere delay of 2 seconds can reduce the queries by 1.8 percent, 3.75 percent reduction in clicks, more than 4 percent loss in satisfaction, and a 4.3 percent loss in revenue per visitor according to a study by Microsoft’s Bing.

Besides, who would want to be stressed when browsing or doing some transactions online? I guess not me. Web stress is directly related to the performance of web pages – the slower the more it will cause stress.

Mobile device users demands speed

There is also a growing trend for users to browse or purchase using their mobile devices. As the technology is growing their expectations with the speed of these sites are also changing.

A comparison of the 2009 and 2011 surveys of the behavior of mobile users conducted by Equation Research (for Gomez) shows that there’s an increase (from 58 to 71 %) of those who expected that their mobile device will load as fast as their desktop counterparts. A more drastic increase is the percentage of those who bounced after waiting for 5 seconds for a site to load (from 20 to 74 %).

What can affect your site’s load time?

Generally, the site is composed of several files that make up the information that you present to the visitors. These come in the form of photos, videos, and document files. In order to get a faster load time these should be minimized in order to maximize the speed of the site. Compress photos, if necessary.

The speed of the connection that is being used both by the server of a site and by the one who is browsing is also an important factor. However, this is difficult to ascertain because several factors interplay in the process of browsing a page – hardware being used, server, and the site traffic.

Graphics are nice but too much of them will not be good for the site. Imagine all those pop-ups and the animated ones at the columns of some sites. They are pointed out as the culprits why some sites take longer to load compared to others.

Too much comments, and links will also cause your site to be slower. So better filter them out well.

Time to check now

Now, I think you are ready to check your site’s load time. Several tools are available online, and there are lots of software to choose from.


As technology develops rapidly, we also develop that insatiable demand for faster service. In the blink of an eye! – not a far-fetched idea after all. I just hope that when that time comes our blinking will still be able to catch up with the load time of most sites.

Agents of Value, an outsourcing company based in the Philippines, provides services in SEO, content writing, virtual assistance,  webmaster and website administration, article marketing, graphics design and affiliate marketing. You can hire web developers and hire link builders from us. We match agent’s set of skills with our clients’ specific requirements in order to effectively develop and market products or services.

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