Performance Matters

Website performance, does it matter?

We’ve all heard the stories about how website load times can affect your business, it’s been repeatedly validated – even by Google. Interestingly whilst Google may talk about the impact it has on users, according to Moz it doesn’t seem to have any meaningful impact on search ranking. Phew? Not really. There’s no escaping the fact that website performance is important to users. The question is, how much is it going to impact your business?

In most scenario’s you won’t find me recommending getting under the hood of your website, except possibly for this. If it’s going to impact your bottom line, you should know a little about it. Even if you have an agency managing your website & it’s performance, it’s a good idea to know the basics – and the quantum of impact, is it really going to be a game changer for your business?

I’m not going to go into any details about performance tuning. Let’s just have a quick look as a small business (or individual) what it takes to squeeze a little more out of your website. I started playing with my (self hosted GoDaddy) WordPress website, and here’s what I found:

Before:

Performance Measurement Before Modification

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After disabling a bunch of JetPack features I don’t really use:

Performance Measurement After Modification

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do these numbers mean?

  1. Load time; lower is better. This is how long it takes to fully display your page to a user.
  2. Page size; lower is better. The smaller your website, the faster it will load & display.

So my website got 1.5 seconds faster, and I shaved just under 100 kB from my page size. Sounds good right? Well by themselves these numbers don’t mean much. After you make some optimizations, you’ll need to track the following metrics to see if the changes had any impact:

  1. Bounce rate; lower is better. How many visitors come to your site and then leave without going anywhere else (or staying for long enough).
  2. Time on page; longer is better. The longer people are looking at your page, the more likely it is they’re actually reading it & finding it useful.
  3. Pages per session; more is better. The more pages people are looking at, the more engaged (and interested) they are in your content.
  4. Leads/Sales/Downloads/YourGoal; this is always the ultimate test. If you have an awesomely configured setup, but no leads or sales (or whatever goal you have for your website), what was the point?

I’ll be making a few more performance changes and I’ll publish the results at the end of next month. Before you get caught up with performance tuning or optimizations, check whether or not it’s going to make any real difference to you business. There are ways of testing this (as above), but you could also just stop and think about your customers, and the type of leads/sales you’re generating ~ is your product a commodity that they’d consider going elsewhere for if the site was slow?