Two seconds: the performance measurement that can make or break web commerce

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CacheFly Team

Date Posted:

October 11, 2013

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Which metrics tie most closely to online revenue and real-life conversions? We could assemble a complex answer to that question around all the factors that go into web development, but one simple performance measurement has proven repeatedly to be one of the most significant for overall revenue: loading time.
Independent reports from the major names in analytics consistently show that web pages have a very narrow window for loading time before users lose patience. Additionally, the acceptable standard for loading speed is the same when browsing on a tablet as it is on a PC. In this article, we will explore:

  • the current data on how user expectations affect engagement;
  • how this information relates to the mobile revolution; and
  • how these factors call for the web acceleration abilities of a content delivery network (CDN).

Two seconds are all you have
There is a figure that repeatedly appears in analyses of the relationship between revenue and website lag—two seconds. Research from Bing has found that a drop in loading time from one second to two seconds equates to a drop in per-person revenue from 2.8 percent to 4.3 percent. Up to 200 milliseconds of loading delay, there is no statistically significant drop in revenue.
What about delays beyond two seconds? Multiple sources indicate that this is actually the point of no return. One report indicates that 40 percent of users leave the site after a three-second wait. Another study puts this figure at 57 percent.

Expectations are the same for mobile
All signs indicate that tablets will completely outstrip the PC within the next few years. Gartner predicts that we will reach this point by 2017. With these platforms rapidly becoming dominant, companies are shifting efforts to improve the mobile web experience. Since mobile devices are lower-powered and often more bandwidth-constrained than desktops and laptops, do users give mobile websites more leeway if they encounter slow performance?
It appears that the magic number, two seconds, still stands as far as tablets are concerned. Research from Gomez has revealed that 70 percent of users expect websites accessed via tablet to load within this same time frame.
The shift to mobile devices presents two issues that must be resolved:

  1. The majority of web traffic in the future will be accessed over mobile devices.
  2. Mobile devices have to sacrifice processing power for battery life and compactness, and operate on networks that have yet to catch up to broadband in terms of speed.

A business website must meet the extremely high standards of today’s users while also ensuring that the tablet-based browsing experience of the future holds up against the same performance measurement. We must assess the tools that are most effective for achieving these goals.

The CDN difference
Though there are diverse technologies in development designed to make the web-browsing experience faster, CDNs remain one of the most proven web performance solutions. Through web acceleration, a site can gain an entire order of magnitude in performance. By caching web content, moving it to network locations more readily accessible to the user, and intelligently delivering it to browsers, a CDN keeps loading latency within the critical two-second threshold. The approach has served countless satisfied companies and helped keep the web-browsing experience pleasant for many millions of users.
Photo credit: Flickr

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