This post will take 3 minutes to read, but you’ll probably skim it and just look at the images.
We’re becoming more obsessed with time, specifically how much of this precious currency we should spend and on what. Large parts of our lives are now quantified in time - think the length of a movie, the time to prepare a meal, waiting time for a bus or train, the seconds until the next Netflix episode and even transformational change such as 4 hour work weeks. Everything has a price - time - to help us make a decision to invest or not.
One interesting trend happening across media websites is the utilisation of time investment - whereby the estimated time to read a piece of content is displayed up front.
Back in 2008, but still relevant, Jakob Nielsen wrote an article on How Little Users Read which uncovered a number of insights including:
On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.
This reminds me of an even earlier Nielsen piece which I first read in college around How Users Read Online (They don’t - they scan the page).
Estimating reading time is relatively simple - usually an equation of the number of words / 200 (or 250). There are some great examples all around, not just limited to websites.
Curation website Longreads showcases the best long form articles from around the web.
Amazon’s Kindle has had the ‘X mins left in this chapter’ for a number of years as well.
Slate use minutes to read incredibly well on their homepage to promote their most recent content which is typically 1-5 minutes reading time. This entices visitors to click through from the homepage which typically will have longer articles.
Perhaps the nicest place to read, I’ve found myself lost for long periods of time endlessly scrolling and reading articles on Medium that are short, snappy and engrossing.
If you combine Nielsens theory with modern media focus on increasing content consumption and from a marketing perspective - increasing website traffic and reducing bounce rates, then indicating the amount of time to be invested seems like a good idea. Although not everyone would agree.
The irony of a news article lamenting the very feature it has integrated. There is definite concern for online journalism as pressure to grow readership and traffic have forced many media businesses towards chewing gum content such as BuzzFeed style lists and curated stories from around the web in the hope that you can somehow monetise one hit readers.
There is a fear we may lose quality stories in place of targeting a newer younger audience who only seem to engage with bitesize lowest common denominator information. I’d give young people a little more respect than that, but if media sites chase page views then they’ll take the shortest route possible.
I’ve always wondered why Microsoft Word doesn’t appear any faster now than it did 15 years ago. With increased bandwidth, faster processors, increased capacity and performance across pretty much every technological aspect - surely everything should be zippy fast.
With websites, expectations are no different - with 47% of consumers expecting a web page to load in 2 seconds or less, and 40% abandoning a website that doesn’t load in 3 seconds (Source: How Loading Time Affects Your Bottom Line) - Speed is King.
Gauging the speed improvement is easy using the WebPageTest tool. I tested a local sports retailer www.elverys.ie and the test shows potential to decrease page load by 47% bringing page load to 1.8 seconds.
Looking under the hood, speed gains are relatively easy given the lack of CDN and multiple JS & CSS files loaded in the .
This is pretty straight forward, fill in the Google form here. Once approved (It was within 30mins for me), you’ll have access to the service backend. The only real step required is configuring your DNS to work with the service, but that is well covered in the setup guide.
Average page load time has decreased overall (by over 50% in many countries) leading to a better user experience, a reduced bounce rate and significant increases in global organic search traffic.
As with all Google services, their are lots of good video guides and documentation. It’s unknown just when Google will make this into a paid service, but certainly it allows businesses a fairly simple out of the box speed boost and could be vital for websites with legacy development environments.
PageSpeed Service Benefits:
Just a final note, disabling the service (rewriters) can be done with the press of a button if any issues are encountered.