Website Speed – Crucial for User Experience & SEO

Discussions and articles about user experience are usually focused on user interface design, usability etc. That is for sure very important, but the best user interface is worth nothing if your page speed performance is very poor!

firebug screenshot

Firebug Screenshot - Web users are buzy and impatient and every millisecond counts. Well, unfortunately the big search engines don´t have unlimited time to spend while crawling your page, too.

Now in 2010, everybody has fast internet connections… So why bother too much about website speed!?!

You might have heard something similar already. Although it is of course correct that the average internet connection speed has increased a lot in the last years: Fast page load speed still matters! In my opinion it is even crucial for a good user experience …and there are a bunch of reasons why fast internet connections are not an excuse not to invest in page speed improvements:

  1. Multi-tasking internet users – Unfortunately you will not have 100% of the visitors bandwidth in all cases. Imagine a web-user downloading a file, listening to online radio and visiting your page in parallel. Even worse if many users share the same WLAN etc…
  2. Server-side performance problems – Some page loading speed problems have nothing to do with the users internet connection! Sometimes just the hosting server is too bad or there is bad code that leads to slowly generated dynamic pages or there are too many unnecessary database hits etc… the list of possible server-side performance issues is long.
  3. Emerging markets web users – If you are thinking about launching a product for the emerging markets don´t be surprised if users connection speed stats look a bit like 1998.

And why is it important for SEO?

  1. The search engines love fast websites, they can crawl more information in a shorter period => They don´t need to spend that much resources in crawling fast websites.
  2. Website speed is a Google Ranking Factor which makes totally sense since fast websites make users and webcrawlers happy and both is pretty much of interest for Google, too. Check the second half of this video and listen to what Matt Cutts from Google has to say about website speed:

How to check the website speed?

There are some cool free page speed testing tools available:

  1. Google Page Speed – Analyzes your page loading speed and gives suggestions for improvements. Works together with Firefox Firebug and Google Webmaster Tools.

    Google page speed screenshot

    Google page speed screenshot

  2. Google Webmaster Tools – Check the Crawl Stats Folder in GWT frequently to get an idea about how Google experienced your website speed while crawling your site.
  3. Firebug for Firefox – Just activate the “net” tab in the firebug window and enjoy the magic!
  4. webpagetest.org – Cool online test tool with lots of options like different browsers, bandwidth, location etc.
  5. More Load and Performance Test Tools – There are lots of them, see the nice overview of Load and Performance Test Tools by Rick Hower.

How to improve the website speed?

  1. Cached Pages – If you have a problem with slowly generated dynamic pages
  2. Check removing Features – There is a feature on your site that only 1% of your visitors actually use and that increases page speed by 20%? => then better remove it.
  3. Optimize Images – Minimize KB, Don´t downsize pics in HTML and only use pics if absolutely necessary.
  4. About optimizing website speed there are a lot more things that can be done, for further reading I recommend the post tips for increasing website speed.

I hope this post about page loading time improvement was helpful for you. Feel free to tell your opinion or ask a questions in the comments section below.

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  1. Zack (2 comments) says:

    Very timely post. Speed is very important now, to the serps as well as the user. There are many things you can do to speed up your page. WordPress has some plugins that help, such as wp-super cache. Another good plugin to disable is the Tweetmeme. It calls on some external stuff while the page is loading, thus slowing down the page speed. Some argue they want to keep it, and that is fine I guess. I ended up dumping it.

  2. Thomas Fuchs-Martin (3 comments) says:

    Hi Zack,

    Yes the WP-Supercache is a must-have for blogs! About the Tweetmeme: It is a dilemma: one the one hand it is really encouraging the users to tweet your blog posts …on the other hand you can clearly see that the tweetmeme external stuff take around 3 secs to load sometimes, which is pretty sad for such a tiny simple button.
    Not sure if I will end up bouncing it, too. At least would be worth to test what happens with this site without tweetmeme.

    cheers,

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