Home Insights The hidden cost of slow websites
9th February 2017 in Business Tips

The hidden cost of slow websites

Paul Wong-Gibbs

By Paul Wong-Gibbs

The hidden cost of slow websites

A slow website load speed matters? Is it something you factor into your design decisions, your pricing, and your expected Return on Investment when commissioning a website project?

Way back in the mists of time (5 years ago) accessing the internet was really slow. You had to wait to connect via your phone line, navigate to the page you wanted, and wait. Websites needed to be really, really small or users would give up after 10 minutes and go back to looking at the Argos catalogue. But is it true that since everyone has broadband now, we no longer need to be concerned about site load times?

That approach could be a mistake that end up costing you a great deal in real revenue. Here are a few relevant statistics:

  • Research conducted by facebook shows that pages that are 0.5 seconds slower result in a 3% drop in traffic. 1 second slower results in a 6% dropoff
  • If amazon increased page load time by one-tenth of a second (100 milliseconds) they lost 1% of sales
  • Shopzilla reduced page load times from 7 seconds to 2 seconds and saw between 7% and 12% increase in conversion rate
  • 40% of users abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load

Here’s something else to consider: We may have assumed that the advent of broadband would mean that load times became a lower priority. This assumption ignores the fact that users could be on slower mobile networks. That includes 3G, which is still prevalent in many areas across the UK, and those of your customers who have travelled abroad and want to use your services.

Can you afford to reduce or remove opportunities for those users to purchase your products or services?

What opinion of you will they be left with if they can’t access your slow website?

In 2012, I was clocking in from Cambodia to build websites with my colleagues in the US. I wasted hours toggling between partially loaded browser tabs and hitting refresh to watch another web app’s loading message spin on a blank white page, eating away at the limited data I was allotted within my prepaid SIM card.

Scott Jehl, Responsible Responsive Design, 2014

An alarming trend in slow websites

At Indigo Tree we have seen a steady rise in a website service that is (on the surface) sometimes no cheaper than the websites we offer, but is far inferior in quality. They’re offered by individuals or small organisations who believe that they can use a site builder service or a commercially-available theme to construct a website. They will sell this product without considering your future as a business. Quite often we have been called in to mop up the mess, and are left supporting sites that limp along, eating into our clients’ precious resources until their budgets permit them to get a proper website built.

The largest impact to you as a company owner or stakeholder is that, due to poor loading speeds, these sites lose money for you hand-over-fist. You’re losing out on valuable business because your website is too slow to view on a mobile, even if the user is on a faster 4G network.

There’s another danger. Quite often clients don’t realise (or aren’t told) that the theme builder software isn’t free. Keeping your site risk-free from hacking attempts means paying out for 3rd party plugins on a monthly or yearly basis!

Did you factor that cost into the budget of the project?

These two factors, as well as the fact that general maintenance and improving the site in any way takes longer and costs more, makes your return on investment diminish greatly.  We’ve seen websites not yet launched that are already proving to be non viable for some unfortunate customers who comes to us for help.

Sites [built with commercially available builders] lose money for you hand-over-fist.

What you can do…

It’s always worth checking that whoever is building your new site is as concerned about performance as you are. Remember: you might be the main stakeholder in the project, but it’s your customers who need to notice the end benefits.

You can also use tools such as webpagetest.org to make sure your site loads below the 3-second drop off point we mentioned earlier.

Above all, ensure you commission someone who is giving you a genuine product, something that is built to last, be maintainable, and fast.

You won’t regret doing so, and neither will your stakeholders.

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