Site Speed and Your Users

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For today’s article, we will have a look at another post by The Brain Lady.  In the article, ‘Time is Perceived as Relative“, the author looks at our psychological perception of time and how it relates to a website.  What causes you to stay on a site or to move to a new one?  What you seem to prefer, your clients will likely seem to prefer.  Lets look closer.

In the article, we read that we perceive time as relative.  If you have spent time with kids the day before Christmas, you know this to be the absolute truth; they will be in agony waiting for that mystical day of opening presents and getting new things.  The greatest day of the child’s year.  But on Christmas day, it just goes by way to fast!  We are the same way.  When we are anxiously waiting for something, it seems to take much longer for that span of time than say, when we are fulfilled and not waiting.

Since this article is about business success and websites, I want to focus on a few items that the author lists as the takeaways:

  • Always provide in progress indicators so people know how much time something is going to take.
  • If possible, make the amount of time it takes to do a task or bring up information regular, so people can adjust their expectations accordingly.
  • If you want to make a process seem shorter, then break it up into steps and have people think less. It’s mental processing that makes something seem to take a long time.

1. Load Indicators

I was pleased that Adobe Reader plugin for web browsers now loads with a status indicator to show how long the file has to wait.  If your site has flash or other active content that may take more than a few seconds, make sure to include status indicators to show that the site is still working and how much longer it has to go.  If your site looks like it stopped dead in its tracks, your visitors might go somewhere else.

2. Quicker Load Time

Make sure that your website loads quickly.  No one wants to wait for a site to load, but how can you speed it up?  There are several ways from minimizing database queries to sequential loading of external sheets.  First, be sure that your site does not have unnecessary code.  Any bit of extra code is an extra step that your browser needs to read to load the site.  Cut it down to clean code.

Next, make sure that your css files load before your Javascript files.  This is because the Javascript will be processing and that will slow down the reading of the rest of the content.  You want all of the css loaded so that your users will have a flawless experience.  While you are at it, make sure that you only have the necessary files on your page.  I have seen sites that are actually loading up to twenty Javascript files and then the site owner wants to know why it is slow.

Next, make sure that you are only loading necessary content from a database.  If you have a CMS site, you are likely loading all of the content from a database, that is OK, but make sure that your templates are mostly static html code that is clean.  make sure that your hosting platform has quick database connections, preferentially the database servers should be on your web server.  Most companies do this, but a few do not.  You can tell if your database is on your web server if your database host is ‘localhost‘.  If it is not, expect your site to run a little slowly.

3. Separate Content

You can separate your site content, which does not particularly speed up the site, but it will make scanning of the content easier.  If your site visitors can scan the content quickly, they will have a better experience and will likely return to your site.

If you have any other ideas, leave them in the comments.

Tom

About Tom

Tom has been building websites and interacting online with blogs, forums, and social media since 2005. In 2010 he launched out full time in web design with the company Western Mountain Web Design. In his first year of business he completed projects in over 15 states in the US. In 2011, he launched the web hosting company Murhost and the blog Murhost Success with the goal of equipping small business owners to succeed with their online strategy.
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