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Slow-loading websites cause visitors to bail

From The New York Times: People will visit a Web site less often if it is slower than a close competitor by more than 250 milliseconds (a millisecond is a thousandth of a second). If you’re serious about your presence online, you need to make a priority of the speed and simplicity of your site... 

"Two hundred fifty milliseconds, either slower or faster, is close to the magic number now for competitive advantage on the Web," said Harry Shum, a computer scientist and speed specialist at Microsoft.

If you’re serious about your presence online, you need to make a priority of the speed and simplicity of your site. Larger websites means longer loading times, which will not only put-off your users but could cause Google to reduce your ‘ranking’ and make your website harder to find in a search. Last week, it was revealed that the average page size has surpassed the 1 MB mark, and that in the last 18 months the average web page has grown by a massive 50%. To put that in perspective, many mobile users only have a 500 MB allowance every month.
You can give your website a speed health-check by visiting www.webpagetest.org – we tested the NMCE website using this tool, and came up with the following points:

  • Long pages with lots of content are not only slow to load, but are very user-unfriendly. Break your website’s content up where possible, putting pages and articles into logical categories. Not too many mind you, because you still want your users to find what they're looking for.
  • Small images can quickly add up to quite a lot. You can reduce the size of an image dramatically by decreasing the ‘image quality’ when you save it. If you don’t know how do this, you can use a free online tool like www.imageoptimizer.net and experiment with various quality settings.
  • Make sure your images are the right size. If you're only going to be displaying a small image, there's no point storing the large image on your server. Users have to load the full original image, no matter what size you've set it to display as.
  • If using videos on your site, you're best using a mainstream video-sharing website such as YouTube or Vimeo. These sites make it easy to upload your videos and then add them to your site. And the great thing is that the video quality will be adjusted based on the connection and device through which the user is accessing your site.

We’re now in the process of ‘trimming the fat’ off the NMCE, a website that we already designed to be lean and accessible. It just goes to show that building a website is never a one-off task, and ongoing maintenance and upgrades will almost always be required.

The photo used in this article is copyright (c) 2010 Daniel R. Blume and made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license

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