It’s not new news that the speed at which your webpage loads is really important, we’ve known it since the modem days of the 90s. Despite that, we’re still allowing ourselves to create large sluggish pages that are costing organisations billions each year.
I was indexing Swedish digital agency Avantime’s new website for The Beantin Index. Indexing sites is always a great exercise. Amongst other things, it gives me the chance to brush-up on and evaluate various methods, techniques and ideas.
Of the sites I’ve reviewed, almost all have an eyebrow raising moment. Avantime was no exception. A little Flickr feature got my web-sense tingling.
Hans Kullin asked and answered Why do I still blog? last week on his blog, this week, John Cass gives his answer. Both provide some interesting insights into the ever-evolving blogosphere.
July 6th Yahoo will launch their book, which will cover grammar, punctuation, web accessibility and writing copy that helps SEO. The companion web site has some useful articles too.
The reasons listed here are quite a nice analytics “basics” overview. Covers a lot of things that are all too often overlooked.
You are all (as you’re clever, web-savvy people who read this blog), already serving your static content from a seperate domain. This is a good explaination of why (and how) you should make sure that your media domain doesn’t serve up cookies with all the media requests.
Now all specialized sitemap formats can be rolled into one file. Sitemaps, and how Google are enhancing them, is a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” situation. Google want to serve accurate, useful, search results – and we all want our pages, images, videos, etc to be included. Get scratching.
Many major newspapers have notoriously very bulky websites. In fact, they are generally some of the most overweight and unhealthy sites on the internet.
Load time matters
Why is this a bad thing? Well, mainly slower loading times. People have very little patience for things to happen online. When combined with a 3G mobile broadband internet connection loading times take a further hit. If testing the patience of your visitors wasn’t enough, Google has even started taking page load times into account in their search results. You could even argue that larger pages have a larger carbon footprint due to the due to increased CPU usage!
Using the Firebug add-on to Firefox I recorded how long it took for the start page of each newspaper to load. Each time I used the same computer, in the same place, connected to the internet via the same 3G mobile internet provider. Before loading the page I emptied the cache of Firefox to ensure that all elements of the page were required to be downloaded.
The websites of all of the Swedish newspapers tested generally weighed more than 2MB and took between 20-35 seconds to load (uncached) over a 3G wireless network. Alexia classes all the newspapers tested as “very slow” and groups them in the slowest 10% of websites on the internet
The slowest of the websites was Aftonbladet. On some occasions it was very slow (and has the honour of being the only site to ever take more than 40 seconds to fully load) and was also the website that most often caused the fan on my laptop to speed up considerably as it battled to cool the processor down due to the amount of flash video being displayed simultaneously and continuously.
An interesting observation was that when reloading pages the majority of the content was, of course, cached (with the exception of Aftonbladet which managed to serve up almost 50% new content) but the load time remained almost the same. This was largely down to the sheer volume of requests made to build up the page. In the case of Aftonbladet, it’s start page is normally comprised of over 300 requests.
During the first week of testing, Sydsvenskan was by far the heaviest of the websites. In the above graphs I have only included Sydsvenskan’s figures from the first week of testing due to the significantly different results during the second week.
During the second week of testing Sydsvenskan released a new version of their website. Initially I thought this would be a bad thing for my testing, but it quickly became apparent that page size and loading time had been a specific consideration when building their new site. So instead of disrupting my testing, it give me an opportunity to see what difference optimising a size for speed could make.
The results were impressive. Sydsvenskan is now the lightest of the Swedish newspapers by a considerable margin. It weighs in at just 43% of the size of Aftonbladet (the fattest and slowest of those tested) and loads twice as fast.
Above the fold content
Also during the second week I also recorded the time it takes for content above the fold to appear, as in reality we don’t wait until every single part of the page has loaded before we start scanning the page and reading content. During this test, I stopped the timer as soon as the leading story’s headline was visible (even though at times adverts and some other content were already visible). This test showed that the lighter newspapers displayed above the fold content three times as fast as the heavier ones. Dagens Nyheter was an exception here and manage to join the thin boys despite it’s unhealthy BMI.
30 seconds? Goodbye!
Generally people appear to have more patience for newspaper sites than e-commerce sites. If clicking on “confirm purchase” on your site took 30 seconds you’d be losing a lot of sales, but on a newspaper people evidently wait for the content to load (or more likely start reading text content above the fold long before everything else on the page has loaded).
Flash based adverts
A large part of the bloat on Swedish newspapers’ web sites is advertising and in particular flash-based advertising, The worst offenders are “video” adverts that play automatically when the page loads.
Lighter is better
With lighter, faster, more responsive pages, the newspapers would reduce bandwidth costs, increase the number of page views, and ultimately give their readers an overall better experience. But given the seemingly never ending focus newspapers’ place on making advertisers happy rather than their readers I doubt the (global) trend for heavy bloated online news sites is going to end soon.
Perhaps Sydsvenskan can be the catalyst for change? Well, perhaps it can be here in Sweden.
An article looking at some significant reasons that prevent people from using collaboration tools to collaborate effectively within an organisation. Some further comments on the Beantin facebook page.
It’s all task based. When we arrive at a web site we have already decided what we want to achieve. This is a point I have to explain every single week…
Some excellent data to back up the claim that the mobile internet is reaching tipping point. One thing that concerns me though is Mary’s encouragement of the walled garden for content. A separate Swedish article reveals that 20% of Swedes surf via their mobiles at least once a week.
Reviews, people, video, events & now Recipes – where’s ‘products’? It’s only a matter of time before Google lift it out of their labs and start using it for real.
Today Google officially announce that slow site speed with affect your ranking in Google Search results. Let’s hope this brings a new dawn of page-size efficiency to the web-world. There is going to be a short series of Beantin blog posts about page speed very soon.
Perhaps a bit of link-bait from Steve, but it does highlight really well why the iPad isn’t a capable of being your primary (or only) mobile computing device.