REPORT: State of the Union for Ecommerce Web Performance [Fall 2013]
Since we began tracking the performance of the top 500 retail websites back in 2010, web page speed has migrated from the technology fringe to center stage, due in part to the numerous case studies from large and small companies demonstrating the relationship between site speed and business KPIs like revenue and conversion rate.
Yet despite all this attention, the question remains: has there been a positive impact on the websites we use every day? Our latest ecommerce performance study suggests not.
Every quarter, we measure the load times of the top 500 ecommerce websites (as ranked by Alexa.com) with our eye on a number of performance metrics, including load time, time to interact (aka TTI — the moment when a page’s primary content loads and becomes interactive), page size and composition, and adoption of performance best practices.
The purpose of this research — now available in our Fall 2013 State of the Union for Ecommerce Performance — is to obtain a current snapshot of how websites perform for real users in real-world scenarios, as well as an understanding of past performance patterns that allows us to predict future trends.
Five key findings
- The trend toward bigger, slower pages continues. The median page took 8.56 seconds to load for first-time visitors. This represents a 14% slowdown over the median of 7.48 seconds recorded in our previous quarterly report.
- The median page takes 5.3 seconds to become interactive. Sites have experienced a slowdown of 8% since Summer 2013, when the median time to interact (TTI) was 4.9 seconds. Ideally, pages should be interactive in 3 seconds or less.
- Three common design practices are failing users. Most sites made one of three critical mistakes in the design and presentation of their feature content.
- The adoption of performance best practices is inconsistent, even among leading sites. Among the top 100 sites, adoption of some best practices (e.g. using a CDN) is nearing the saturation point, whereas others (e.g. using progressive images) remain neglected.
- Browser vendors are not keeping pace with page demands. Across all three major browsers, performance is trending downward as browser vendors struggle to keep pace with the demands of today’s large, complex, dynamic web pages.
The good news in all this…
If you’re a site owner, findings #3 and #4 should be seen as huge opportunities for improvement. While it’s true that some performance-enhancing techniques are labor- and skill-intensive, there are others — such as re-thinking the design of feature banners and ensuring that images are correctly formatted — that are relatively easy and pain-free.
This report outlines twelve best practices that you can implement to improve the real and perceived user experience for your visitors. (Note that most of these can be applied outside the ecommerce world, as well.)