The not so complete consensus on the internet is that a web page needs to load in around 4 seconds or less before you can start to lose visitors. Some visitors will sit and wait no matter how long the site takes to load, but on average if your pages are climbing past that 4 second mark then your visitors could be getting impatient.
One other really great tool that I’ve been using for page loads (as well as search engine optimization, etc.), is WebCEO. WebCEO has a nifty “Auditor” Feature that can scan your website and generate a slick looking report with all kinds of useful information, including page load times, and slow pages.
What can you do to boost your web page load times?
Do it with CSS – Are you using lots of images to get a good looking website? Can you do the same or similar with CSS? Many sites that I come across try to use all kinds of fancy images to create a nice looking interface. The problem here is every image is extra time spent loading that page, not to mention many sites that are using images for their interface have reverted to using tables in their designs in an attempt to make their layout work cross-browser. Menus are a big one here in that, if you can create a similar effect using styles instead of images, you can usually get easier compatibility, and faster load times. Not to mention that CSS is cached by browsers, offering previous visitors faster load times.
A Spoonful of Flash – Please don’t build your entire site out of Flash. And if you want to be different and build an entire Flash Site, at least include some sort of Preloader, and alternative content would be nice too. I’m not going to sit around an wait at a site, especially if I don’t even know how long it will take to load your Flash. Oh, and did I mention that I have an Ipod Touch now and when I’m browsing I get absolutely no Flash, nada! Your beautiful Flash site means nothing to my mobile browsing on my ITouch.
I have to say that I’ve never really put too much thought into page load times, especially with today’s widespread use of high speed internet connections. But now that more and more people are using Mobile Broadband and other services, load times are important again. Plus, not everyone has a high speed internet connection available, and even the office where I work has only a few channels available on our T1 resulting in about 200k of bandwidth on a good day. That’s quite a bit more than ye old 56k dial up connection, but still not quite “high speed”, and some of the latest and greatest websites and flashy web apps slow to a crawl on our connection.