Robert Beerworth Team : Web Strategy Tags : Web Strategy

Why the speed of your website is so, so important

Robert Beerworth Team : Web Strategy Tags : Web Strategy

I remember 15 years ago when the speed of your website was critical; it was a major talking point with clients at any engagement meetings.

Back then, we all had comparatively slow connections and some web developers – especially between 1998 and 2002 – had this fascination with bloating pages with video and imagery and code that produced an amazing visual effect, albeit that nobody could ever enjoy the show due to the 65 second load speed (and a range of other factors).

Clients were relatively and surprising attuned to this bloat and so generally, there was a reasonable balance between page bloat and performance. On the whole, web development firms would make reasonable efforts to reduce page load times, and clients accepted that bandwidth was shitty.

After 2002 however, bandwidth improved.

Pages generally loaded faster and so bloat was less of an issue.

Clients stopped talking about page performance.

Though having said that, web developers, by-in-large, did not take advantage of this new, lax attitude. We knew that heavy Flash and crazy images just weren’t cool and that there genuinely needed to be a balance between visual effects and the performance of the website.

The middle ground was that as long as the page loaded reasonably quickly, the page was OK.

Fast forward to 2011 and everything is about speed.

And the issue isn’t that websites are too slow. The issue is that they’re not fast enough.

Why is speed so important?

During the interval between 2002 and 2011, something incredible happened.

Users wisened up.

They got clever. They got picky.

They had so many bloody websites to choose from that they started to become demanding.

And speed is a big qualifier of this demand.


Users have become so discerning that they repel websites that cause them even the most momentary delay. They literally bail.

Indeed, Amazon made the point that for every 100ms delay of the website for the user, they see a 1% drop in sales.

Trust me, that’s significant, especially when you consider how easy it generally is to improve the performance of a website.

What slows a website?

In simple terms, there are three points at which a website slows down:

  • At the server: the website is slow to be rendered, produced and sent to the user.
  • In between the user and the server; the connection between the user and where you host the website.
  • At the user’s browser; the page is bloaty and inefficient and each page is excessively slow to render; often this can be laggy tracking code.

(There are many variables that can effect these different bottlenecks though such detail is too specific for this blog....)

Only a proper analysis can determine where the bottlenecks are, though some general considerations to take into account when focusing on speed:

Firstly, make sure your website (and database) is optimised at the server end. Use caching, efficient database calls and optimise the database. Indexing the database can really free up speed, especially on websites with user load or traffic peaks.

Secondly, host with a good provider and don’t cut corners. If you spent $100k on your website, spend at least $500 a month on hosting. $1k a month is much more realistic as a base.

Finally, optimise your pages. Clumsy JavaScript and heavy ‘View States’ are simply unacceptable. Bulky pages are just unnecessary and rather than impressing users, annoy    instead.

Even if your website seems OK, it can definitely go faster. And the benefits of a faster website will hit the bottom line.

If your web developer has no answers, seek independent advice.

There is no need or justification for slow websites and achieving speed must be a high priority.