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Winning Websites – Find Your Appropriate Download Time and Deliver It

May 18, 2007
Jay

News Flash! Despite what you might think, there are no perfect websites. However, there are some very simple tips that you can apply to your website that will make it more effective and more reliable. One way you can improve your website is to be sure the download time is appropriate – after all, this is the first impression you make on your visitors. The thing that makes this complicated is that there is no single rule to follow. But, don’t despair – there is a process…

You can start by running your website homepage through some simple online tools to determine the download time. One good tool is: Web Page Analyzer.

But what download time is right for each site? As an example, as rich as Yahoo’s homepage is (information-wise), it only takes 1.12 seconds to download on a typical ISDN/DSL connection (typical fast home connection) – and only 0.83 seconds on a T-1 (typical business connections). This is highly appropriate for Yahoo because it’s a portal and search site – which means visitors are trying to get beyond the homepage very quickly. By contrast, Amazon.com’s homepage takes 24.98 seconds and 13.31 seconds. This could be considered appropriate for Amazon as their visitors need more information to help them make buying decisions – including relevant recommendations and a quick glance at previous purchases. This kind of personalization, directly on the homepage, takes longer to appear – but is potentially worth the wait from the visitor’s point of view.

Next, have a look at your average visit length, bounce rates and exit page stats for your website. Is your homepage one of your top exit pages? Is the average visit length a matter of only a few seconds? Does your homepage have a high bounce rate? While these stats can be an indication of other issues, they often point to a frustrated visitor who has decided to go elsewhere – most likely due to an inappropriate download time.

So what download time is right for YOUR website? Well, the key is to remember it’s about what is appropriate for your visitors. It’s all about user experience and satisfaction. As noted above, some users will wait if they believe the payoff is coming (valuable content and features), but there is a point at which all visitors will abandon the website and “go to the next one”. The key is to determine what is the right download time for your website, then design for it. The tips above will help you do that.

Next time: designing for a faster download time.