Saying that the speed of your website’s navigation is primary to its online success may seem like a bold claim at first. Though gripping copy and striking graphics are good to have, the only unassailable advantage you will ever have over competing websites is your delivery method: The speed and ease at which your visitors find the information you are trying to convey.
Consumers don’t like delays
Two useful studies that have been referenced in website performance-related articles for several years now have concluded the following:
- 47% of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or less
- 40% will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load
- 52% of online shoppers claim that quick page loads are important than their loyalty to a site
- 23% will stop shopping or even walk away from their computer
- 64% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with their site visit will go somewhere else to shop next time
- At peak traffic times, more than 75% of online consumers left for a competitor’s site rather than suffer delays
- 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience
- Almost half expressed a less positive perception of the company overall after a single bad experience
- More than a third told others about their disappointing experience.
(Akamai, September 2009, interview with 1,048 online shoppers | Gomez, 2010, interview with 1,500 consumers)
It is a fact: If a website performs poorly we lose interest, we go elsewhere, no matter how attractive it is. One would then assume that between competing websites, the one with the faster content delivery will convert the most visitors. It is obvious then that great focus should be given to Navigation Performance because over and above gripping copy and striking graphics, the speed by which you deliver your content is the only true advantage you will have over those that compete with you.
The faster, the better.
But why is it that fast content delivery makes such a difference? Surely this cannot be attributed only to user impatience? No. There is a psychology behind fast content delivery and user behavior. Reluctance to return, avoidance to buy and refusal to sign up are mere symptoms of genuine emotions website visitors feel when they come across under-performing websites. As studies have shown, slow websites provoke boredom, distrust, anxiety, fatigue and even anger:
- Boredom – As the time delay increases, users may find a website’s content less interesting and of a lower quality. (Ramsay, Barbesi, and Preece, 1998)
- Distrust – Slow web pages lower perceived credibility (Fogg et al. 2001)
- Anxiety – 44% of respondents said that page slowdowns during checkout made them anxious about the success of the transaction (Web Performance Today, 2013)
- Fatigue – Brain wave analysis revealed that participants had to concentrate up to 50% more when using badly performing websites. (Foviance, 2010)
- Anger – Among consumers who had problems conducting mobile transactions, 23% have cursed at their phones; 11% have screamed at them; and 4% have thrown them. (Harris Interactive)
Surprising and extreme as these consumer responses to website delays may seem, it is clearly imperative to avoid delays at all costs – if not to prevent the loss of business, at least to protect your website’s reputation.
On the other hand, websites that deliver content faster (at least faster than the average) automatically receive better consumer opinion – even if the content itself is not that impressive:
- Websites that perform well are perceived similar to efficient service in a brick and mortar store (Web Performance Today, 2013)
- Faster websites are perceived to be more interesting (Ramsay, Barbesi, and Preece 1998)
- Websites that perform well are perceived as more attractive (Skadberg and Kimmel 2004)
- Better performing websites have higher conversion rates (Akamai 2007)
Faster is better, but instant is best
“Cyberburst websites are different in kind, not just degree. Standard websites cause click resistance – because of the delay, not knowing where you’re going next. Instant websites, from the very first click, create click confidence; which can easily become click addiction. Good for sales.” (Gerry du Toit, Management Consultant, Prospur Business Development, 2013) If you really want to keep your visitors interested and engaged, you have to do better than fast. You have to supply content within 100 milliseconds. That is almost instant. Our brains simply work that way: Our sensory memory (the shortest of our short term memory) remembers in 100 millisecond spurts, no longer. Thereafter we have to rely on actual short term memory to remember the context of what we are busy with and things don’t seem to come as naturally anymore. We have to start thinking: “Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going next?”. It becomes effort.
But if things happened faster, within the 100 millisecond time-frame, new experience will unfold as it does in nature. You will perceive it easily, without jerking, without delay, without stress. As when you sit quietly in a forest, calmly watching nature unfold around you: A bird flying past, a moist breeze on your skin, leaves rustling, rays of sunshine through the trees – a multitude of information enters your senses, yet without you feeling any stress. In fact, it relaxes you because all that stimuli is presented instantly and you absorb it easily, fluidly, instantly. That is how we naturally are. That is how we naturally want it.
So, if we are naturally inclined to prefer instant stimuli, it is obvious then that we will respond much more positively to websites with instant content delivery. Such a website will make us feel more in control, more relaxed, more natural. Therefore, we will trust such a website and the content it supplies more easily. Clearly, a website that delivers content within 100 milliseconds has a huge advantage over websites that lag. That is a very valuable and powerful insight. It is not a new insight. In fact, global megabrands have been measuring milliseconds for years:
- Google is aiming to serve requests in less than 100 milliseconds: “We want you to be able to flick from one page to another as quickly as you can flick a page in a book. So we’re really aiming very, very high here… at something like 100 milliseconds.” (Urs Hölzle, Senior VP Operations, Google)
- Amazon found that every 100 milliseconds of improvement increased revenue by 1%. (Amazon, StanfordDataMining, 2006)
- Yahoo increased traffic by 9% for every 400 milliseconds of improvement. (Stoyan Stefanov, Yahoo, 2008 )
Technically, serving content instantly is difficult. But possible
“Technical achievement aside, and the pleasure of using a website so fast it is instant, the consequence of Instant Navigation is “click confidence” and “click addiction” – which results in repeated, premium quality, successful experiences for your website visitors”
Only since the launch of Cyberburst, did a truly holistic solution arise where content is delivered instantly without compromising any other website functionality.
“We have a mechanism to deliver websites that are instantly navigable without loading all content upfront, without being overly dependent on Ajax, without affecting Search Engine Rankins, being fully content managed, totally browser-compatible, perfectly responsive and based on standard internet technologies. Instant Content Delivery is here.” (Johan LB Dreyer, Cyberburst, 2014)