3 Reasons Why E-Commerce Sites Are Slowing Down, and What You Can Do About It
When it comes to website load times, user expectations are constantly escalating. In 1999, the optimal load time was eight seconds. By 2010, 57 percent of online shoppers stated they would abandon a web page after waiting just three seconds for it to load.
While internet users may have high expectations, these expectations aren't being met by most sites. At Radware, we recently tested the load times of the top 500 e-commerce sites and found that the median site took 7.72 seconds to load. This represents a 13.7 percent slowdown since spring 2012.
In other words, a typical contemporary e-commerce site delivers a 1999 user experience. And in countless case studies, ranging from small e-commerce shops to online giants like Amazon.com, this subpar user experience translates to losses in page views, return visits, conversion rate and, ultimately, revenue.
In this article, I'll share a few of the key culprits behind the web performance problem, and how site owners can fight back.
What site owners can do to combat this issue:
- Consolidate page resources.
- Compress text and images.
- Minify code.
- Optimize — resize and/or reformat — images.
- Use a content delivery network (CDN) to cache resources closer to end users.
2. Pages aren't optimized to load key content first. Of the top 100 sites we tested, the median time to interact (TTI) was 4.9 seconds. Time to interact is the point at which a page displays its primary interactive content, and it's an important indicator of a page's ability to deliver a satisfactory user experience (by serving content that the user cares about) and to fulfill the site owner's objective (allowing the user to respond to the page's primary call to action).
Ideally, web pages should be interactive in two seconds or less. Only 8 percent of the sites we tested met this criteria.
What site owners can do:
- Defer rendering "below the fold" page content.
- Ensure that interactive features (e.g., carousels) are optimized to load early and quickly.
- Defer loading and executing nonessential scripts, such as third-party analytics, social widgets and ads.
- Use AJAX for progressive enhancement.
3. Adoption of performance best practices has either plateaued or is on the decline. While the adoption of some fundamental performance best practices (e.g., use a CDN, enable keep-alives) remains widespread, the adoption rate has plateaued. For other best practices (e.g., compress text and images), adoption is still lagging.
These findings are consistent with separate findings, recently announced by Google performance evangelist Steve Souders, who stated, "the adoption of performance best practices has been flat or trending down." Souders also points out that we're seeing declining numbers in the adoption of core techniques such as optimizing header caching and avoiding redirects.
What site owners can do:
- Use a CDN. CDN use has plateaued at 58 percent despite the fact that most, if not all, major retail sites could benefit from using one.
- Enable keep-alives and compression. These are simple best practices — the low-hanging fruit on the performance optimization tree — but they can have a huge impact on page speed, making pages load up to 30 percent faster.
- Create/maintain focus on front-end web performance optimization (WPO) via manual WPO performed by in-house developers, automated WPO solutions or a combination of the two.
Tammy Everts is solution evangelist at Radware, where she evangelizes web performance both in-house and out in the world.