When it comes to designing and developing a website, there is a whole host of things that are important, from the design and content down to the background and font colours you use.
However, it is the speed of the website that is often most critical, as the average internet user might not be too concerned about what a site looks like, but they’ll certainly close their browser or hit the back key if it takes too long to load.
Research suggests that anywhere between three and five seconds is the optimum load time for a page, which is a benchmark developers should look to work to.
How is website speed taken into account during website development, and why is it so crucial from a user experience perspective?
The biggest thing to remember when developing a website is that everything has the potential to slow you down. The more you add to your website, the more there is to load, therefore the longer it is going to take to load fully.
From a development perspective, it is important to have this in mind when giving recommendations to a client or working on your own website. For example, you might decide you want a variety of functions and features on your website, but find that your server cannot handle it in a good enough manner for it not to have a disastrous influence on load times.
This means you have to start prioritizing what matters, although hopefully you’ll be working to modern web development trends such as minimalistic design, and haven’t found yourself going overboard with widgets and plug-ins.
You can use several tools, such as Pingdom, and also the Google Webmaster Tools account associated with the website, to measure the page speed. Do not assume that having a private server means you should go mad, either.
Only have what you need on your site. You should also avoid falling into the trap of assuming that everyone has fast internet connections. Do you really want to lose a potential customer just because they don’t have the latest broadband?
We’ve already touched on page speed in terms of the loading time, but how else do they make a difference? The big thing to consider is how user experience affects SEO. Googlebot crawls your website and sees that it takes so long for your pages to load that they give up and go elsewhere, what do you think is going to happen to your site in terms of search rankings?
Looking back to the users themselves, is there anything worse than trying to view a page but not being able to because a particular plugin or add-on isn’t loading properly? Even if the page does load and they can read your content, if other things are going on around this they aren’t going to have a particularly good experience of your site.
Make sure whatever you have on your page loads quickly and works, otherwise you will struggle to have an impact online.
Resource Box: James Wilson is currently using managed VPS hosting at JaguarPC to host his blog. James writes about a range of technology related and web development issues and is also a passionate sports fan.