With Google’s Matt Cutts admitting that Google is using website speed as a minor ranking factor, there had been quite some noise about page speed among the web design community. Now with the latest stats positively showing the page speed as not so significant as many believed it to be, can it actually affect a website negatively?
Not considering any SEO implications, page speed is an extremely important web usability element. Consider the following example originally published on Master New Media .
- Screen 1 – The first test participant in the top gaze plot fixated a few times within the big empty color block before the content downloaded, then spent the remaining time looking at the rest of the page. This user never looked at the big promotional space after it had rendered.
- Screen 2- The second user (bottom gaze plot) happened to be looking away from the screen during the eight seconds when the promotional content downloaded. Thus, the first time he looked at the page he saw it as intended, complete with the entire promo.
The slideshow occupies 23% of the page and the user who had to endure the download delay spent only 1% of her total viewing time within this space.
In contrast, the user who in effect received instantaneous page rendering (because he didn’t look until it was done), spent 20% of his viewing time within the slideshow area.
So in essence if the page speed has been optimized, the marketing team would have seen some more traction with their well planned advertisement. But in this case, all that effort was spent in vain.
The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to website speed is “let the audience be in control”. Remember, it’s the audience who interact with the website and it’s them that matters to you or your client. Every second of delay in website speed is a negative impact on the audience and lead them to realize that they are no longer in control. In such case, you or your clients are going to lose credibility which is not helpful at all.
So it might be a good idea to start looking at page speed. There are many free tools to check speed. We use a Firefox plugin called ‘Yslow’. Google is going one step ahead and offering a Page Speed tool for free http://code.google.com/speed/page-speed/
Check out this video from the Google dev team.