We’ve all been there: crawling towards our destination, with no real indication that the end is in sight. We’ve all felt the frustration, the sense that we should maybe just give up and go home. We’ve all wondered why we even started out on the journey in the first place.
And it’s not just traffic jams and delayed trains that can make us feel this way. It’s bad websites, too.
The truth is, speed online is of the essence. Slow loading pages, creaking user interfaces or unresponsive functionality is the death knell for many an enterprise online.
Users expect ease online – it’s why they log on to particularly commercial websites in the first place. If they experience any barriers, they are likely to leave – and quickly.
The more people who leave a site before engaging, the fewer conversions it will achieve – and the lower that site’s return on investment. Laggy loading will lead to an exodus of users. That’s why a successful site is also a speedy one.
When designing any site, then, it’s essential that not just its look and feel be considered carefully – but also its technical “back-end”, the infrastructure that will enable it to serve its visitors properly. This means speedy servers and streamlined structures. It means designing a site from the ground-up so that it whizzes by.
First and foremost, speed ensures a great user experience. Visitors to sites want to find the content they need quickly – and engage with it seamlessly. Ensuring that a site loads smoothly ensures that each of its users can get what they want – and that means that they are more likely to convert into customers.
It’s not just user experience that requires speed, either – it’s SEO. Google and the other search providers reward sites that load quickly – because they know that their users, too, value seamless experiences. Google isn’t in the business of delivering to its users sites that will frustrate them … so they test every site’s capacity to deliver.
And don’t forget the demands of mobile. The majority of people now access the internet via a smartphone or tablet. They might be accessing the internet via a weak WiFi signal or even a 4G SIM. A site that makes too many demands on this connection will load too slowly – that’s why optimising for mobile display is absolutely critical if a site is to win over busy, on-the-go users.
Good designers need to do their loading-speed homework, then. They’ll use software tools to test a site’s loading speeds. They should also undertake user testing, to ensure that a site doesn’t just behave well for automated tools – but for real human beings. Does the structure make sense? Do the animations look smooth? Does a page snap into existence at the click of a button?
All of these questions matter, and speed really does lead to success online. Site shouldn’t get stuck between stations, or be left idling on the information superhighway. A great site will get users where they want to go – and fast.