We’ve become used to sites downloading almost instantaneously nowadays. It wasn’t that long ago, with old-fashioned dial-up connections that it could take as much as a couple of minutes to even get online. Broadband and Wi-Fi power has improved all that.

It has, however, also made us all a little impatient.

According to the latest stats, 47% of users will expect a page or site to download in under two seconds. If it takes longer, 40% will abandon the site they’re trying to access. What this all means is, if your site is taking too long to download, it could well be putting visitors off and damaging your bottom line and losing you potential sales.

The User Experience

The first area where speed can have an impact is on the user experience or UX. This is increasingly important to get right if you want to ensure that visitors to your site get exactly what they are looking for.

Slow download of pages can be caused by several factors, including:

  • The connection that individuals have to the internet and the power of their computer or smart device.
  • The quality of your web server or host and the type of package you decide to invest in for your site.
  • The types of files you have on your site and their size. For instance, if you have images that have large file sizes these can take much longer to download, particularly on some devices.
  • The number of plugins you have attached to your site can also affect speed.
  • The traffic volume at the time the user is accessing your site could also make a difference.

Slow speeds generally lead to lower conversion rates with potential customers heading straight to your nearest competitor because they feel frustrated. While a couple of seconds may not seem a lot, if it loses you just one or two customers it’s obviously something that needs to be addressed.

Speed and SEO

Most people don’t realise that page speed can be a ranking factor when it comes to search engines such as Google. While, up until now, it has been seen as merely an indication, there’s no doubt that Google see the speed of loading as a sign that a site is healthy. This ranking factor is going to affect mobile-first predominantly. Seeing as most of us tend to access the internet on our smartphones nowadays, there’s no escaping its importance.

How to Improve Loading Speed

One key way to ensure good speeds is to build UX into the design phase for your website. This looks at making your site as accessible as possible to users and that includes ensuring there are fast loading speeds.

If you are seeing slower load times with an existing website, the solution may require several measures to be put in place such as decreasing the size of your image files or reviewing the number of plug-ins.

There may be other issues such as the hosting package you have signed up to or the underlying CSS or HTML structure of the site. You may have larger files that can be deferred from the initial download without impacting on the appearance of your site. You might want to remove any unnecessary software that is slowing the speed or enable caching to ensure that a version of your site is stored on the visitors computer, creating a smoother viewing experience.

Paying attention to download speeds, ensuring your visitors get immediate access is vital if you want to protect your bottom line and give customers every opportunity to buy your product or hire your service.