Speed Means Sales

The importance of website performance is often overlooked, even though the Internet heavily influences many aspects of our daily lives. During my summer spent interning for section.io, I sought to investigate just how crucial and imperative optimal website performance is to the success of one’s company or organization. In order to examine the benefits of having a fast, readily available website, I performed research and analysis on 324 websites selected at random from a list of several thousand that run on Magento Enterprise - a leading e-commerce platform used by many online stores.

There are numerous online resources that offer helpful tools to analyze and measure the performance of your website. For the purposes of my studies, I primarily utilized WebPagetest because of the variety of information that is displayed after conducting a performance test. However, there are also other resources available to examine the speed of a website such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, and Pingdom Website Speed Test. All of these tools provide fascinating data and metrics that will give you an indication as to the performance of your website as well as ways in which to improve its speed.

The specific metrics that I observed in my research regarding page load time along with their respective meanings are as followed:

  • Redirect Time to www: The amount of time it takes to fully redirect to the website’s www domain if it is in place for a “Bare Domain” request.
  • HTML Load Time: Otherwise known as the Time to First Byte (TTFB), is the time in which the HTML document (the key to starting any page drawing in the browser) is delivered to the web browser.
  • Start Render Time: The initial point in time in which the first non-white content (can be anything that is different from a blank page) becomes visible and is displayed on the web browser.
  • First View Load Time: The time from the start of the initial navigation until the first time the page is loaded in the web browser.
  • Speed Index: A calculated metric that describes how fast all of the page contents are visually populated.

Examining these differing metrics for your website can help you to paint a picture of its overall performance, and determine areas in which speed optimization can occur.

Research Findings

Now that I have described the basics of my research, here are some of the most interesting findings and takeaways from the 324 Magento Enterprise websites that I evaluated. In my analysis, I compared the top 10 websites with the best performances vs. the bottom 10 websites with the worst performances, in addition to the overall averages for each individual metric.

  1. 241 of the 324 total websites analyzed underwent redirects. Of those 241 websites, 12% of them redirected to their www domain in an impressive 100 milliseconds or less. On the contrary, the average Redirect Time to www for the 10 worst websites was 1598.60 milliseconds.

  2. 11% of the websites had an HTML load time of 200 milliseconds or less. Only 5% of the websites with an HTML load time of more than 750 milliseconds effectively utilized a Content Delivery Network (CDN) on their bare domain.

  3. Of all 324 websites, the average Start Render Time was 2.88 seconds whereas the average First View Load Time was 7.25 seconds, which equates to an average difference of 4.37 seconds from when something first appears on the screen to when all of the page content has loaded.

  4. Only 6% of the websites had a Start Render Time of 1 second or less. Of the 251 websites that were classified as strictly e-commerce, the average First View Load Time was considerably worse at 7.15 seconds.

  5. The Speed Indexes of the top 10 best websites were all under 1156 milliseconds. In comparison, the average Speed Index for all 324 websites was 5142 milliseconds.

What does all of this mean for you?

Although there are a lot of factors that impact the page load time of your website, the most important thing to take away is that milliseconds ultimately do matter when it comes to optimal website performance. There are an abundance of studies that have proven this notion. When Google was contemplating whether to display 10 results or 30 results on their Google search pages, they found that traffic dropped 20% for the 30 results pages because of a ½ second page loading difference. Not only that, Google experienced 25% less searches for every 500 millisecond increase in page load time. Bing, another popular search engine, experienced a 2.8% drop in total revenue due to a one second delay in page load time. According to Amazon, they found that they underwent a 1% decrease in sales for every additional 100 millisecond in page load time, and a 2% increase in conversions for every one second of speed improvement.

A widely renowned study made by the Aberdeen Group showed that a one second delay in page load time may lead to a 7% loss in conversions, 11% fewer page views, 16% decrease in customer dissatisfaction, degraded Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and a generally poorer user experience. In dollar terms: if your website earns $10,000 per day, this would mean a $250,000 loss in sales each year.

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