Rune Rasmussen | 01/04/2021
Why page speed is (still) the ultimate service for your visitors
Websites have come a long way since the days of static designs and one-way communication. Today, with an open mind and tech-savvy spirit, small business owners run websites that act as data hubs where visitor interactions can be measured and monetized.
Services such as live chat widgets, chatbots, review widgets, dynamic feedback forms, etc. are all put to use in an attempt to serve visitors and drive conversions.
However, it’s sometimes wise to take a step back and revisit what providing good service fundamentally entails. Doing that, you’ll quickly realize that behind all the fancy technology and apps, it all comes down to the same good old service deliverable: speed.
It’s a bit like eating out at a restaurant where you order from a tablet computer instead of a menu booklet. If you still end up waiting 30 minutes for your meal to arrive at the table, it doesn’t really matter. Speed is (still) the ultimate driver of good service.
Having a website that loads quickly is the foundation for online success. Only once you’ve achieved that does it make sense to look into what additional services you may want to offer your visitors.
I often hear people argue that with the advent of high-speed broadband connections and 4G/5G networks, it doesn’t really matter if a website loads light or heavy because it gets downloaded very quickly regardless.
As we get accustomed to faster internet speeds, our expectation that websites load faster grows proportionally. Five years ago, it was acceptable for a website to take three seconds to become interactive for the visitor. Today, there are much faster internet speeds in place. And if a website takes more than two seconds to load, it’s likely that the user won’t wait - they’ll close the window or try the next link on the search engine results page.
The data is out there; page load speed directly correlates with visitor retention and conversion. For example, the BBC found that an additional 10% of users bounced for every additional second their website took to load. For Mobify, every 100ms reduction in homepage load speed resulted in a 1.11% increase in session-based conversions, which worked out to an average annual revenue increase of almost $380,000.
Furthermore, the fact that Google is making their Core Web Vitals a ranking factor for search results is a testament to the fact that load speed matters more than ever.
Of course, the big question for website owners is this: what can I do to make my website load faster? But this question should always have a follow-up: And how can I do so without affecting the visitor experience?
Some of the more traditional approaches to faster load times may have gotten the job done but it was often at the price of a poorer browsing experience. Some examples are loading a fallback font before the actual font of the website (causing a funky font switch after a second or two) and clumsy, lazy loading of images (causing the layout to jump or shift dramatically).
Luckily, technology is always evolving, and here are some great ways to solve load speed issues without compromising the browsing experience:
On a very basic level, prefetching can be understood as strategically loading content before it is requested so it can be accessed more quickly. Prefetching stores page data in the browser cache before it is needed.
The browser silently fetches the necessary resources (HTML) needed to display a web page that might be accessed by the visitor in the future. When a visitor accesses a page, the technology detects which links are visible on the visitor’s screen and prefetches the HTML of the pages to which the links point to. The aim is to reduce wait time and deliver data, or web pages, faster.
At Mono Solutions, we made prefetching natively available through our website builder (all you need to do is tick a box) using the Quicklink technology. The results are pretty amazing: average page load time is reduced by 20-30% without any negative effect on the visitor experience.
Why defer - or delay - the loading of these static elements? Some elements - for example, style sheets (CSS) - may be particularly heavy, so deferring their load means that the visitor’s network will see a lighter load and can render the website faster. In short: this speeds up the initial page load.
In the Mono website builder, we’ve made it possible for website owners to defer the loading of style sheets for image galleries, as they are typically quite heavy. If you have an image gallery on one of your pages, the associated style sheet won’t load until the visitor is scrolling down the page and is about to view it in their browser. This significantly reduces the amount of data that needs to be downloaded when a website is rendered initially and creates a smoother visitor experience.
One of the main culprits of slow loads is third-party code. The more information that needs to load from external sources, the longer it takes for the website to finish rendering. Some website builders rely extensively on third-party apps and widgets and this often comes at the expense of slower load times.
Instead, consider using an all-in-one website builder that has made an effort to build add-on products and services natively. As these are less reliant on third-party services, the code is typically more streamlined and coherent.
When you’re evaluating a website builder, it’s always a good idea to run some of their templates through a Google Lighthouse test and check how fast they load. If they don’t load fast, chances are you’ll have a hard time ever reaching good load speeds.
As a small business in a digital world, website load speed is fundamental to good service and online success. Load speed is crucial in retaining and converting visitors. Some great ways to solve load speed issues and help load pages faster include: getting an internal web page’s data ready in advance (prefetching), delaying the load of heavy files until needed (deferring render-blocking resources), and using native products and services (limiting use of third-party code).
Mono Solutions’ all-in-one website builder can help your small business optimize its web page load speed in these three areas, so your site can provide speedy and efficient service to your customers.
Rune Rasmussen is as a Product Manager responsible for the Mono Editor and Mono Websites, the latter revolving around published websites in terms of load performance, security, accessibility and SEO. He’s worked in software for over a decade across a host of different industries such as medicine, banking, eCommerce and eLearning.