Brendan Hughes’ post on The Efficiency Imperative reminded me of something I’ve touched on briefly before with a tip on speeding up Google Analytics by hosting it locally but Brendan does a good job of expanding that out to the wider picture of the importance of speed.
Speed matters. Research studies from many large websites indicate that tenths of seconds in the download times of retail websites has an impact on customers’ likelihood to continue. As far back as 2007, Amazon discovered that with every 100 milliseconds increase in the load time of pages on their site sales decreased by 1%. A golden “one second rule” was introduced as a result with the imperative that no webpage should take longer than one second to download [ref].
So with load time and responsiveness being an extremely important factor, it’s no surprise to see Google on hand to help out developers with the addition of Site Performance under the labs section of Webmaster Tools. Page load time also important for Google Adwords and is a new ranking factor for Google SEO - two massive reasons to sit up and take notice.
This gives a good overview of average page load times for my Wiffy.ie website, 7.1 seconds pretty bad.
Of course Big G not only helps you recognise the problem but also offers some helpful suggestions.
Most of these suggestions would require some web development knowledge, so Google recommend using their Page Speed extension where you can knock yourself tweaking your web page. I’d also recommend the lori extention which shows page load time.
Much of the optimisation is founded in utilising stuff that proper web developers (who know scalability) would consider such as GZip compression at the server side, and using a content delivery network (CDN) as well as what I would consider good practice from web designers like combining css files, and optimising script loads and minimising unused code
Yahoo also have a great resource with their Best practices for speeding up your website which puts their 34 best practices into 7 categories, and also provide YSlow (similar to Page Speed) - so there is a lot of help out there on investigating and improving page load times as it’s definitely going to be a recurring theme in 2010.