How Fast does your Site Load?

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 very cool tool to test page load is the “Full Page Test” from Pingdom. The test will take a url, and test the load time for all of the content on that page. The test will even give you a breakdown of the individual page elements (such as images, flash, javascript, and more), with individual file sizes, and how long each one is taking to load.

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.

I’ve also been using the “network monitoring” feature of the Firebug AddOn for Firefox, to test my page load times. It took some optimization on my end (less flash, smaller/local images, less javascript, and some caching), but all of my websites should now be under that 4 second mark.

What can you do to boost your web page load times?

Trim the Fat – Make sure that if you are using images on your site that they have been optimized for the web. Also make sure that if you are using any javascript, ajax, flash, or otherwise, that you optimize your code and filesizes to make it easier on 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.

46 Comments

  1. Great Tips. There are so many things that people use on their sites because they look cool and flashy but they do not realize that it slows down their site drastically. Nice Post.

  2. This is great advice. I pay a lot of attention to my load times. Very often I will put a new widget on my blog and not notice that it takes forever to load. I think that this really hurts a blog. Paying attention to load times is very important.

  3. This post needs to be read by every single webmaster on the planet!…lol. Seriously though, if more webmasters would take the time to “trim the fat” off there webpages, it would make a huge difference on how fast there pages load. Especially simple things like using external javascript files. Why isn’t something like that not used by everyone?

    And also, as you mentioned, those people who build there entire website using flash. In most cases it makes no sense mainly because search engine spiders can’t read it (except for Google of course…)

  4. I also use a few other tools to help optimize and diagnose bloated pages.

    http://valet.seoconsultants.com/

    I also recommend looking at various tools that will access your site from other physical locations and test the connection there. My websites target worldwide audiences and I use some of those tools to identify load times for visitors in various countries, I even changed web hosting providers once due to a bad connection to one region of the world.

  5. Pingdom is great software, and you can download a free trial and test your site out. My blog is way too slow to load, but I think people expect blogs to be a little slower to load with all the stuff people have on them…at least that my excuse.

    Simons last blog post..Free Terminator Vector Image

  6. Alot of these resources that you and the other readers have spoken about are great for webmasters. For those who are looking for an internet based alternative one great page loader speed test is at tools.pingdom.com

  7. Great post on how to speed up website load. Not many people know that a great site is not all graphics or flash. If the site loads slow most people will just leave. The hosting provider usualy uses t1 lines so most hosts are fast but get slowed down when people have flash and graphics that take up alot of transfer.

    Like post about flash websites being bad i think i have to link to it so some people can read that one.

  8. Thanks for the tips – I have been trying to keep those load times down, and for the most part seem to be doing pretty well. For example, I have reduced file sizes of images by resizing/resampling, implemented a general policy of placing videos below the fold (keeping them off the home page), and reduced the number of posts displayed on the home page from 25 to 15. I am also trying to limit the sidebar widgets to a reasonable number.

    Karlonias last blog post..100 Quotes About Power

  9. From an SEO perspective, cutting out the fat on your site is a huge plus. Load times are killer and reducing load time has been rumored to be factored into the Google algo for rankings.

    MJs last blog post..Search engine rankings and pagerank

  10. What is the maximum load time that you would recommend?

    By the way, I think most visitors don’t like flash stuff anyway.

  11. 4 seconds seems to be the magic number for load times. If your site doesn’t load for the visitor within 4 seconds, then they start losing interest.

  12. I would also recommend this online free tool: http://Site-Perf.com/

    It measure loading speed of page and it’s requisites (images/js/css) like browsers do and shows nice detailed chart – so you can easily spot bottlenecks.

    Also very useful thing is that this tool is able to verify network quality of your server (packet loss level and ping delays).

  13. Interesting looking site/tools there Zuborg, the network quality is an interesting stat that you don’t usually see. Are you using the Pingdom API for the reports?

  14. Of course no, all tools on site-perf.com are developed by my own from scratch :)

  15. Thanks for the tips and the tools…
    I just hate websites that have flash on their homepage or as an intro. I tend to zap away rather than wait for the page to load.
    Any idea on which hosting providers are the best as far as fast loading is concerned?

  16. There are too many factors for me to recommend 1 host for every situation, but what it really comes down to is what type of web hosting (shared, vps, dedicated) and where the host is located in relation to your audience (US host with Asia visitors could be a problem).

    I personally use Dreamhost’s shared hosting and have found it reasonably fast for an extemely low price. I also use a LiquidWeb VPS for mission critical sites and applications. I’ve also had good experiences with hostgator and InnoHosting.

    There are a few other hosts that I use but I have found them to be nothing special, although not really horrible either (1&1, GoDaddy, 100Webspace).

  17. Thanks for that Jon. I use Hostgator but the free Web CEO tool gives my website a rating of 3 to 4 (Fair), yet using the above tools, my website loads within the 4 second mark. Not sure what this means and why the rating isn’t great.

  18. Yea most shared hosts will get you a rating of around 4 because you’re dealing with the delays of 1 server running multiple sites simultaneously. For the most part you should be just fine as long as your site loads within the 4 second mark, and if your site starts to grow you can always move up to a better server to keep up with demand.

    Heck, I know some ecommerce and other heavy traffic sites that are still able to run on shared/non-dedicated hosting because they’ve been heavily optimized (although with the cost of hosting these days it might be more effective just to upgrade the server).

  19. Oh well, at least I know it’s not my fault and there’s not much I can do about this…:)

  20. Yea, as long as your site loads within that 4 second window and you’re not experiencing any downtime (search engines hate unavailable sites) then you should be just fine.

    The only other thing that you have to watch out for (and you’re probably ok if your site already loads within the 4 second mark) is having a site that is too large for the search engines to crawl/index/cache. Google for example will only cache the first 150kb of a site in its index (not AS important, but something to think about).

  21. Great post I would also recommend a Firefox addon called lori or life of request info, tells you the time until first byte, time till completion and the size of the page so if you are trying to streamline your site this can tell you how you are doing.

    Michael Stewarts last blog post..How to Spoof an Email

  22. Thanks for the informative post. I've been telling a friend of mine that has a website focused on microcap stocks that his account with Homestead needs serious consideration about changing host. HIs website constantly loads slow but he says he never loses visitors becasue of it. I say he's not paying attention to his analytics and the fact that web surferers impatience grows more an more each year.

  23. It is important how quickly a site loads – I know I leave sites that take ages. I wouldn’t always trust tool to work this out for you though. I have found then very inacurate.

  24. I wanted to have a really cool looking, flashy site with a whole bunch of gizmos, but I ended up having to stick with a lot of the basics because it was taking forever to load and I did not want to chance losing customers.

  25. Having a quick loading site is key when trying to due business online. People get really impatient when it takes 10sec to load a page on the internet. If your page is taking a long time to load, find the root of the problem whether it be a flash script, or a large image, or coding gone wrong and fix it ASAP

  26. You can still have a flashy site with loads of images that loads quickly. You’ve got the take the time to think about what you are doing and how it can be optimised to use the smallest images that make the most impact.

    • The problem with having a large number of images (even if they’re optimized correctly) is still having to deal with the high latency and loading times because of the multiple files. One good technique is using CSS Sprites (multiple images in one file) to cut down on the number of files required, and still being able to use multiple images on a site.

  27. Another good tip on how to make a website loading faster is to spread out your content neatly. So, when you find yourself having very long pages of content, break them down into separate logical sections and thus bring down the sizes of the individual pages.
    .-= Nancy´s last blog ..Barbie Fashionistas Doll – Wild =-.

  28. I only just started tweaking the fat off my main landing page and the tools mentioned work like a charm, thanks :)

  29. Wow! Totally awesome, Thank you so much for sharing! I know that when a site takes too long I just leave it!
    .-= Gabrielle´s last blog ..What is a Short Sale =-.

  30. my sites been taking ages to load.. due to which bounce rate has increased to around 80%.. i hope to sort it out quickly..

  31. This is some good stuff, I think my site is around the 1 to 2 second range but I do not have any images or anything up maybe that is why. I heard that if you are using wordpress as a blogging platform that the WP-Cache plugin will make your site load faster also :)
    .-= sarah´s last blog ..All About Florida Ignition Interlock Devices =-.

  32. This information is very useful for me .thank you!

  33. many thanks for the post,and I think page load is a way to keep your visitor on your web site. Most of the visitors never wait more than 5 seconds to load a page. So its very important to load the web page within four seconds. And all the maintained points are very important to boost your page load time Well!

  34. Regardless of all the tech mumbo jumbo, what i know is Google has included side speed factor in their algo change. So if your site speed is slow, better sort it out by using CSS and remove heavy images or properly optimize them.

  35. Great article.

    As a photographer i have lots of web galleries, but i am conscious of my website’s overall load times, as well as minimising the Flash content because, like you mentioned, iPhones etc do not support Flash.

    I recently went from plain old html to CSS and have not looked back, far faster load times =o)

  36. great article, a site that loads slow loses traffic, I can count how many times I have be frustrated by sites that load slow with too much HTML and media

  37. Interesting article. As you know Google launched its PlusOne service a while back and everyone can put +1 button on their site.

    But, I noticed by adding this button, you site will suffer a very huge load time.

    Anyone else experience this?

  38. Nice article, hope it helps me to make my site faster loaded!

  39. For my wp site I used w3total cache plugin and maxcdn. My site went from nearly 5 second loading time to 1.6 seconds. Both those plugins work great together.

  40. Great blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused .. Any ideas? Appreciate it!

    • Yep, for an aspiring writer/blogger I highly recommend getting started writing as soon as possible. With free platforms like WordPress.com it is easy enough to get started blogging without a significant investment. You may not have a specific niche in mind, but it definitely helps to narrow down potential writing topics to make it easier on yourself and to target your writing content. Plus having a niche or two allows you to network more easily with other blogs/websites that match your category of content.

  41. Nice blog post and Pingdom tools are one of many great products out there. Can’t over-egg enough the importance of speed testing – not only from an SEO perspective but from a user experience.

    Nice alternative is StatusCake.com’s tool which allows you to simply enter the URL and then chose the location you want the website to be tested from. Quick, easy-to-use and free! :) https://www.statuscake.com/tools/

  42. I designed my own CMS and did away with Joomla. Joomla is nice and all, but it’s too fat and too slow!

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