In a nutshell, if your website is slow to load, then many users (first-timers in particular) are going to bounce off your page; meaning they leave the website before the page has even loaded.
This is clearly an issue, as it’s like having a retail store that people walk up to the front door of to push the door with a view to browsing your offerings only to find the door is shut and a sign that says “come back later”. They’re not going to hang around unless they are really committed to purchasing something from you.
In terms of conversion optimisation which is all about converting browsers to buyers, the first step is to ensure they can actually get through the front door and into the aisles of your store – as any other attempts to increase conversion rates are futile if people are bouncing off the site to begin with.
There’s a direct correlation between how much time people spend browsing your website, with how much they are likely to spend – which is similar to the high street. Indeed, big retailers know the power of keeping their customers engaged in their store and invest substantial resources in the area of visual merchandising in order to attract and engage customers, along with strategic item placement to optimise ancillary sales.
Having a high bounce rate will not only shrink sales performance, it has the potential to cripple your online business. A high bounce rate is not only linked to the speed of your website, however, aspects such as a lack of engaging content, relevance, or clear user benefit are all contributing factors too.
Speed, however, is at the forefront of most issues as it’s been found that 40% of prospective customers will leave your website if your site takes more than 3 seconds to load.
In an increasingly impatient world, particularly online – and especially when viewing on mobile devices – people value speed above all else; though a close second is usability in terms of clear navigation.
This is known as user experience (UX) design, and whilst it will not speed up the loading of your site it will speed up the process in which a user navigates to relevant content. You want to create very direct and simple routes to the most important areas of your website; as if your website is like a maze, in terms of finding something, people will very quickly give up and go somewhere else that is more effortless.
This is why it’s so hard to get feedback on your website design, and conduct user testing to see how people interact with your website. This can be an expensive process, but if you have a few friends willing to spare five minutes you can ask them to find a specific item on your website and watch the process to see how long it takes, and what pathways they use to get there. You can also ask questions about what would have made their journey easier.
In summary, loading speed and the speed at which it takes someone to reach a particular place in your website are fundamental to your online business success.