The Need for Speed: How Faster Websites Convert More
Since every marketing campaign revolves around a website, this would be a great place to add some speed. Why? Bottom line: Time is money.
When you boil it down, websites are where the sales happen. And what’s the first rule? Make it easy. Most times, that means faster transactions, whether we’re talking about money or knowledge.
Giving your prospects and customers a faster website to experience will go a long way toward checking that box.
Today, user experience can be measured in commitment (i.e. engagement) and dollars. Pages that load in less than two seconds have a bounce rate of 9%, while pages that come with a five-second wait have a 38% bounce rate. Let’s put it another way: An ecommerce site that makes $100,000 a day could suffer a loss of $2.5 million a year—for a one-second page delay.
Growing Need for Website Speed
Internet speeds in our homes and on our mobile devices have been steadily increasing for a few decades now. What started out as a dial-up connection has been replaced by cable modems, fiber optic lines and high-speed mobile technology like LTE and now 5G. Waiting for content to load used to be an accepted and expected part of the web browsing experience but as our access speeds have improved, wait times are now often perceived as a technological failing.
To that point, Google analyzed 900,000 mobile ad landing pages in 126 countries. The short story? Most mobile sites are slow, dragged down by too many overwhelming elements.
For 70% of the reviewed web pages, it took nearly seven seconds for the content on the first screen and more than 10 seconds on the second screen and beyond to load the visual content. As part of analysis, Google used a computer system that it modeled on the human brain and nervous system along with a large set bounce rate and conversion data. The network, which had a 90% prediction accuracy, found that as page load times go from one second to seven seconds, the probability of bouncing increases 113%. And as the number of page elements increased from 400 to 6,000, the chance of conversion dropped 95.6%.
Google’s research also found that 70% of pages were more than 1MB, 36% were more than 2MB and 12% were more than 4MB. Keep in mind, using a 3G connection, it takes seven seconds to load 1.49MB.
The report used several benchmarks to reach its findings. For example, the number of individual pieces of content needed to display the entire page was one factor. The best practice was fewer than 50. The second benchmark accessed the total size of a web page, measured in bytes. Less than 500KB was found to be optimal. The third factor looked at how quickly pages loaded the content. Best practice? Less than three seconds. The fourth and final factor looked at how fast and responsive a web server is in specific categories (i.e. industries). Less than 1.3 seconds was optimal.
Most Important Website Optimization Improvement: Use Better Servers
When it comes to ensuring that your website loads quickly and reliably, the most foundational piece of the puzzle is your hosting infrastructure. If your website isn’t hosted on a powerful server with a high-speed connection, then your page load times will suffer regardless of how well your website and content is optimized.
Every website is unique, and as such the hosting requirements for each website can vary quite a bit. Does your website have a complex database? Will you be streaming high-quality video files? Do you expect a high volume of users? These are among the myriad of questions you should discuss with your hosting provider to determine the correct level of service needed to keep your site running smoothly.
We ask these questions during web development to ensure our clients deliver the best experience to their target audiences. For example, Garden Communities, which offers 125 apartment rental communities throughout New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts and Connecticut, wanted CMA to develop an easy to navigate, mobile-friendly website to provide the mobile experience that its users have come to expect. The company needed a responsive website design that was user-friendly, easy to update and optimized for SEO.
To reach more customers faster, Garden Communities’ newly designed, responsive website incorporates a listing feed, which provides up to the minute real estate listings to websites like zillow.com and apartments.com. On the backend, our web dev team utilized a real estate management system to input and update apartment availability and pricing twice a day, ensuring that the most up-to-date information is displayed on Garden Communities’ website, as well as other searchable sites.
Google prioritizes mobile-friendly websites, making a new web design of Garden Communities’ website necessary for the company to remain competitive. With the new responsive design, the website delivers the level of functionality and responsiveness that users expect and functions flawlessly to improve the user experience and increase time on the site. It also improves mobile SEO to attract more customers and secure more sales.
Thanks to web dev improvements, Garden Communities’ new mobile-friendly site widened the potential customer pool to include anyone performing a mobile search. Now, prospects don’t have to hunt for the website or type in an exact web address. They can perform a search to find Garden Communities quickly and easily.
Most Overlooked Website Optimization Improvement: Resize Your Images
The proliferation of content management systems—such as WordPress—has put the power of managing and updating websites into the hands of everyday internet users. This has been useful in helping companies and individuals publish content without the constant help of a web developer, but it can also have unintended consequences on the performance of your website. This is particularly true when it comes to adding media files like images or videos to your website.
Let’s use WordPress as an example. When creating a new page or a new blog post using WordPress, the author is given the option to upload media files from their computer to insert into their content. Often, these files are full-resolution images taken straight from a digital camera or stock imagery website—they have not been resized or compressed in any way. As a result, these websites are often loading and displaying media files that are exponentially larger and more resource intensive than they need to be.
A solution to this problem is to either resize and compress your images to an appropriate size before adding them to your page or to ensure that WordPress is properly configured so that it resizes the files for you upon upload.
Adding correctly sized elements to your website is important, such like adding ones that help your audience. When Super Chic, one of the largest deep-sea fishing charters along the New Jersey coastline, wanted a website that could be assessable to all audiences, CMA was able to help.
CMA’s web dev team created an optimized website that incorporated accessibility elements that supports the buyer’s journey, as well as the customer experience. CMA’s web design invited a larger all-inclusive audience, including more mature and disabled users. Building a memorable experience requires delivering on the brand promise through every touchpoint—as well as every personal interaction. A well-branded website, which is the center of every organization’s universe, maintains a consistent presence that will resonate throughout the development of all additional marketing communications.
Here are some website design elements that promoted accessibility:
- Slide Out Menu: The menu features icons that include screen readers and other useful tools for the disabled and impaired. CMA’s accessibility suite meets the WCAG 2.0 specified conformance level “Triple – A” guidelines.
- Screen Reader Adjuster: When prompted, the reader converts digital text into synthesized speech dictating all information for the blind to successfully navigate and browse the entire website.
- Text Reader: Users with Attention Deficit Disorder and other reading challenges can control the reading flow using the mouse and/or keyboard.
- Keyboard Navigation: The design allows users to navigate through pages with the keyboard alone.
- Monochrome: The tool provides three different contrast display options that can change the text and background color so that it can be easily read by a user with a visual impairment.
- Increase Font Size: The tool allows users with low visual impairments the option to increase or decrease the text or select a more readable font.
- Screen Magnifier: The tool works like a magnifying glass by enlarging the screen, making items easier to read.
Quickest Website Optimization Improvement: Use Page Caching Plugins
One of the most resource intensive actions that occurs when loading a website is the reading and writing of databases. When a website that uses a database—which is now the vast majority of websites—experiences high traffic, it causes strain on the database server, making a site become unresponsive or sluggish. A quick way to improve the speed and responsiveness of your website in these situations is to utilize page caching plugins. A page caching plugin will temporarily store the content of a page that would normally come from a database in a static file. When subsequent requests for that page are made, the plugin will serve the static file instead of re-querying the database.
When Hunterdon County wanted an expanded website to promote businesses along its historic Route 579 to grow its agritourism sector. Using databases, CMA created the Hunterdon County 579 Trail, an online guide to more than 50 agricultural and agritourism businesses located on Route 579, a 25-mile strip that runs from Bloomsbury, New Jersey to East Amwell, New Jersey.
CMA added new web pages, tabs and social media buttons on the revamped website, as well as adjusted the navigation to allow users to find what they want faster. A new “sign-up” was added to the layout of an inside web page so users could easily register for the newsletter. A vertical banner was added to the home page with the option to display up to three upcoming events that link back to the Events page.
CMA’s web team also built an interactive experience, where users can plan their trips and stops along the way at a variety of businesses, such as farms, wineries and restaurants. Users can simply download their own itineraries or save their trips to their phone.
The new Hunterdon County 579 Trail site continues to build traffic, engagement and awareness for the region’s agritourism industry. To date, it has generated 5,858 new users, 5,734 sessions and 75,264 brand engagements. It has also been the catalyst for commerce and holiday stores in popular media outlets, including NJ.com, New Jersey Monthly, Bucks County Herald and WFMZ.
Faster Websites, Better User Experience
At CMA we take a number of steps to ensure that our clients’ websites always load fast during web development:
- We host our websites on powerful, reliable servers with ultra, high-speed connections. We have both a physical data center and numerous cloud-based solutions. This enables us to offer the right level of hosting for websites of any size.
- We take pride in developing websites in a way that is lightweight. We write streamlined code, avoid computationally expensive frameworks, and test our work thoroughly to avoid bottlenecks or sluggish load times.
- We educate our clients on best practices for keeping their sites fast.
When Amerlux asked for an innovative website that addressed the pain point of its target audiences, architects and lighting designers, CMA implemented the standard steps that allows us to implement new features without sacrificing speed. Amerlux was able to turn its new website into an invaluable tool that will save time, money and angst for its target audiences.
Consider how Amerlux’s new online “tool” addresses their stakeholders’ most agonizing pain points:
- How do I find the right product? Amerlux’s new Product Finder essentially eliminates the need for a search box. Visitors can simply click on various click-down menus, which display a range of variations. Once you click on each category, ranging from features to color to applications, hit search. Voila! The specific products appear on your screen.
- How can I quickly organize all the specifications for my products? Amerlux’s new Light Notebook helps visitors create a project online where they can save spec sheets so they can easily review all of them together in one place.
- Where can I see Amerlux’s solutions at work? Amerlux’s new Design Gallery captures its solutions in dramatic fashion. Visitors also can find case studies to learn about problems solved under the Products page.
- How can I learn about the new aspects of lighting? Amerlux’s Resources page delivers educational guides and blogs, company news and a show schedule for upcoming events.
- How can I earn continuing education credits? Amerlux’s Education page allows visitors to click on its eLumenNation Webinar series, so you can earn AIA/CE credits and learn about upcoming, live presentations.
Visitors also can find solutions by name from the Product Finder.
No matter your industry or objective, you will need to deliver an experience that exceeds your customer’s expectations. From a website development perspective, a faster website with quicker page loads will go a long way toward increasing your conversations.
Ready to make your website convert more prospects? Contact us today.