Reduce page load times on your website to retain users

As Google search moves toward mobile-optimized websites appearing at the top of its search results, how can you improve your websites to keep your customers coming back?
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor
Waitress sitting at table and using laptop in café
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

There has been a large shift to online shopping during the past few weeks in lockdown --- especially for e-commerce categories like grocery and medicine. But what if your website has less than optimal page load times? Your customers will turn to more efficient websites on their devices.

The size of images on websites affects page weight, which significantly impacts website user experience and drives visitors to leave the site for a more optimized site.

Google notes that as page load time goes from one second to five seconds, the probability of bounce -- users turning away from the page to view other sites -- increases by 90%.

According to research conducted by Unbounce, 26.9% of mobile site visitors will only wait between one and three seconds for a site to load before they leave.

New York-based imaging solutions provider LiquidPixels has compared 17 retailers' home pages from a cross-section of product and industry categories to explore images impacted site load times and performance.

Based on image weight, results varied from Target, which loaded the fastest, to Chow Tai Fook jewelers, which took the longest to load. Other retailers such as Amazon, Tesco, and Home Depot have less-than-optimal load times

An analysis of the Amazon Basics page showed a staggering 29.3MB page weight. On a 17Mbps mobile connection, the page would take 13 seconds to download. With image optimization, download time would be cut by two seconds.

Tesco PLC has a 15.8MB page weight. Looking at the page over a 17Mbps mobile connection it would take almost seven seconds to download.

If the site was image optimized, the page weight would be 12.4MB, which would download in five seconds. That is a 28.6% increase in speed or a two-second saving in time to load.

Chow Tai Fook, the privately-held Hong Kong conglomerate with holdings in fine jewelry, property development, hospitality, and retail, has an enormous page weight of 48.6MB that would take almost 23 seconds to load on a standard mobile connection.

With optimized imagery, the page load time would improve by at least five seconds.

Reduce page weights on your website to retain users zdnet
(Image: LiquidPixels)

Google currently uses mobile-first indexing for over half of its pages shown globally. It will enable mobile-first indexing for the entire web from September 2020. This means that less than optimal page load times with more 'weight' added by large images will be less attractive to the search engine.  

Its data shows that more than half of overall web traffic comes from mobile -- yet pages take about 15 seconds to load on a mobile device. More image weight means that the site is less optimized for mobile which increases the chances that consumers will turn elsewhere.

LiquidPixels has released a tool that shows the benefits of website image weight reduction. The image analysis tool provides an assessment of how the images on any website affect its page weight, which affects website user experience and visitor abandonment rates.

Steve Kristy, CEO of LiquidPixels, said:

"The small sample we tested represents a broad swathe of e-tailers -- from jewelers to home improvement giants, to luxury goods, groceries, and clothing. 

These businesses rely on high fidelity images to encourage sales; but there's so much more they could be doing to improve the shopping experience -- especially on mobile devices --by optimizing images for quicker page loads and ultimately, conversions."  

Speed matters. Almost a third (32.3%) of visitors can wait four to six seconds before leaving a page, 24% wait between seven to 10 seconds, and 5.3% will wait up to 13 seconds before leaving for another site.

If you want your site to download and render quickly on a mobile device, the images need to be optimized. This means uploading a reduced image size and adding descriptive alt tags and relevant image titles for each upload. 

Fast page load times are even more important as more of our shopping moves to mobile devices. And the ability to shop quickly will keep us coming back for more.

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