Understanding page load speed and website performance

2 min read
Sean Loiselle
Page Load Speed

In the nostalgia-tinged days of dial-up modems, how quickly your website loaded mattered less. It was measured in whole seconds (and, if it was something really special, even minutes). People were patient and everything was wonderful (even if painfully slow).

However, the ubiquity of high-speed Internet connections has changed our expectations — drastically. We're downright impatient when we don't get what we're looking for with startling immediacy. Google has details of an experiment they performed here showing that a page loading half-a-second more slowly resulted in a drastic decrease in searches (reading the study, keep in mind that 0.2% of Google's volume of searches still represents a huge number).

Other page load speed tests performed by some other large Internet companies show the same results — slow sites lose visitors and traffic.

If you want your business to succeed online, then, it stands to reason that your site can't be slow.

One way to track your site's page load speed is by using an external tool, like PageSpeed Insights offered by Google here.

If your website isn't quite as fast as you'd like, there are a lot of pieces factoring into it:

  • Large images, or a lot of them, drastically increase the amount of data a visitor needs to load to see all of your site.
  • If you use an application like WordPress, loading plugins' and themes' scripting can be a burden for a web browser and cause substantial lag.
  • Application users also face the problem of having to connect to a remote database server to retrieve of their websites' data. If the database server is slow, the site suffers for it.
  • Heavy load on a server can slow it down, as well. Servers can only process so many requests so quickly, and when they get bogged down, their response times suffer. To see this paralleled on your own computer, imagine trying to play 100 videos stored on the hard drive simultaneously. It will slow down.

Fortunately, tools like the ones Google offers detail where your site needs improvement, along with suggestions for how to fix what ails it.

Take these recommendations to heart — these days, having a slow site can cause real issues for your business. Visitors don't want to wait around for your site to load when they can take their business elsewhere.