A quick start guide to web performance
How many visitors will abandon a website if it takes too long to load? According to a 2022 survey, one in two visitors abandon a website that takes more than six seconds to load. The results show that time is valuable to customers, and they are not afraid to spend their money elsewhere if their expectations are not met. Customer behavior has changed in the last decade — from cell phones to social media — and their attention spans have shrunk in measurable ways. More than ever, companies need to be obsessed with the web performance of their site. The inability to capture the attention of your visitors in a matter of a few seconds could cause you to lose potential customers.
This article will cover why web performance matters, how it’s measured, the impact of speed on user experience, and ways to improve web performance.
Why web performance matters
Today, because of the complexity of the changing consumer landscape and increasing demands of consumer expectations, companies are prioritizing the delivery of a great user experience. A faster webpage creates better conversion rates and leads to increased user satisfaction. Studies have shown a strong correlation between slow websites and lost revenue. So, it is even more important to have these early discussions in the site design and development process — while projects are still evolving — and resolve any performance bottlenecks. When visitors have a great digital experience, they engage more with brands’ content and are more likely to come back, explore, and accomplish their goals like making a purchase.
How to measure page performance
To understand the basics of web performance and what to optimize, we need to dive deeper into Google’s Core Web Vitals. They are a set of three metrics that determine the overall user experience and the actual page load speed. In August 2021, Core Web Vitals became a Google ranking factor that will influence how your site ranks in Google search results. By the end of this article, you should be able to measure and optimize these metrics in your own project.
Core Web Vitals measure the following three things:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). This is how quickly the main content of a webpage is loaded. It measures the largest content (image, video, or text block) from the first initial loading of the page until it appears. A good score means LCP should be less or equal to 2.5 seconds. Since it only measures the main content, it does not measure the load of all the content on a page.
- First Input Delay (FID). As a user experience metric, FID measures the time from when the user interacts with your page (i.e., opening menus on mobile device or when a user clicks on a link or button) and the time the browser responds to the action and processes it.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). A layout shift occurs when an element — like an image, text, font, or widget — changes position or size to have everything fit. This metric measures how much of a shift during the entire lifespan of the page. A score closer to zero is a good score. The larger the number, the more layout shifts on the page.
Core Web Vitals scores are based on real user data while various online testing tools use simulated lab data to generate reports.
Why a functional website is important
For brands, staying ahead of competition and adapting to consumer behavior is not a matter of choice, it’s required. A brand’s website is the single most critical entry point to any user — the speed at which a page loads impacts engagement and conversion, and therefore revenue.
Amazon’s research report showed that even milliseconds matter when it comes to page speed.
- Every 100 milliseconds in added page load time cost them 1% in sales.
- A site that loads in one second has an ecommerce conversion rate 2.5 times higher than a site that loads in five seconds.
What real impact looks like
To give you some insight into why and how focusing on optimal web performance can be a competitive advantage, let’s review Adobe’s real-world case study. Adobe’s digital properties — including website and desktop and mobile applications — had room for improvement on page load times and time spent on site.
Once Adobe implemented Edge Delivery Services from Adobe Experience Manager Sites, the Core Web Vitals greatly improved:
- LCP decreased from 7.2 seconds to 3.4 seconds. When LCP decreases, it gives visitors the feeling that the site loads fast since it takes less time to load the largest piece of content on the page.
- Time to Interactive decreased from 33.3 seconds to 4.5 seconds. This is the time it takes for interactions to react. A decrease in time gives visitors the sense of how quickly it reacted to an input, like a click on a button.
- CLS decreased from 0.388 to zero. Having a zero score means there is no shifting of the layout, and everything gets loaded correctly for visitors who are looking to click on a button.
Given that Core Web Vitals have a direct impact on user engagement and conversion, Adobe also saw an increase in key engagement metrics:
- SEO visits. Visitors coming through search engines increased by 19%.
- Engaged visit rate. Not only is having more visitors on a site important but the quality of their visit also matters. Adobe saw an increase of 40% in engagement.
- Repeat visits. As the experience improved, more visitors were returning with an increase of 14% in repeat visits.
- Average time on page. Visitors stayed longer on the page, with an increase of 30% (measured in seconds).
- Bounce rate. The percentage of visitors leaving the site after viewing went down by 12%.
- Conversion rate. Pages with forms on the page have a conversion rate change of 37%.
The results are astounding, with an uptick across the entire user journey. Adobe saw more visitors come to the website. Visitors stayed longer, interacted with more content, and came back to the site again.
And for mobile users, key metrics improved across the board as well. Mobile users were not only spending more time on the site, but engagement improved as well. For example, engaged visit rate increased by 35%, bounce rates decreased by 6%, and the average time spent on page increased by 21%.
Given that mobile is a key channel for users to find and interact with the site, having a seamless mobile experience is also critical. In fact, research shows that 9 in 10 internet users access the internet using a mobile phone.
Fast performance is a must-have
Speed matters. Even if pages have met the standard metrics, optimizing them further will increase your future earnings and help you create and maintain a competitive advantage.
Learn how to improve website performance with Adobe Experience Manager Sites.