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33% on broadband won't wait more than 4 seconds for page load - survey results
75% won't shop there again if the site has performance or tech problems

 11:15 am on Nov 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

A survey by Akamai has found that if an ecommerce website takes more than 4 seconds to load 33% of the users on broadband will move on:


The loading time was second only to pricing in making people decide whether to purchase from a particular site.

4 seconds is half the time most shoppers were willing to give in the last survey, presumably because broadband connections have upped people's expectations for how quickly a site can appear.

[edited by: lorax at 1:58 pm (utc) on Nov. 12, 2006]
[edit reason] corrected to match report [/edit]



 5:51 pm on Nov 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

This is the kind of question you can't ask people and get a real response.

The only way to accuratly find out how long people will wait is to set up computers with different load times, and video tape people using them. Tell them the purpose of the experience is to find out how customers find the lowest price so they are not thinking about speed.

I'll bet you will find surfers are more patient than people think and only the longest load times will chase people away.

People expect more and more cool content so all these people saying they need to keep home pages under 5k are living in the past. Creating sites with dial-up users in sacraficing the growing majority for the shrinking minority.


 6:21 pm on Nov 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

Forgive me..what is the old saying?
Liars use statistics and all statistics are lies?
I agree with Beedubbleu...they set this up for their own benefit.


 7:10 pm on Nov 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

I must reiterate that nowhere in the report does that 75% number appear in reference to the number of shoppers not returning if a site takes more than 4 seconds to load. The BBC got it wrong and after the report was posted, you can clearly see the the overall percentage was at 28% and not 75%.

Also, read the report carefully and pay close attention to the terminology being used. They use words like load and render in the same sentence. There is a distinct difference between the two of them. A site can render in a second and easily take 3-4 seconds to load behind the scenes.


 7:17 pm on Nov 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

4 seconds? I'd always worked under the "6 at 56" rule (maybe just because it rhymes).

But I have no trouble seeing a drop off starting at 4 seconds, especially on smaller "unknown" sites that I'm clicking through to from SERPS, especially for broadband surfers.

Here's my completely unscientific list of things that piss me off and drive me away from an e-commerce site (NB: this list is entirely made-up of things that slow load times.)

#1 Flash. May I repeat - Flash. Flash is for multimedia content sites. It sucks for selling stuff. Get over it. Really.
#2 Java. Man, I see that coffee cup in the corner of my browser while a page grinds away loading, I'm gonzo.
#3 >40% photos above the fold. I'm kinda odd this way, I know. But I'm an info oriented guy. If all I'm seeing is a mass of pics with no info to accompany it, it screams to me "all gloss - sizzle and no steak."
#4 Too Busy - Not enough white space. Focus your customer in on a few key identifiables. Don't shotgun him/her with everything and the kitchen sink.
#5 Too much blinky/moving stuff. Animated gifs scream "low rent"

Also NB: you can re-order that list any way you want. They're all equally annoying.

All those things add to page weight and/or grind out your browser to slow load times.

If you say to yourself "I'm doing that and my site is doing great anyway..." You're not asking yourself the right question.

What you should be asking yourself is "How much better would my site be doing if I cleaned it up and got load time down?"


 7:29 pm on Nov 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

It's certainly easy to A/B test fast/slow entry pages. Wouldn't that be a better way to test what consumers REALLY want?


 8:04 pm on Nov 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

Sometimes it can take a couple of seconds just to resolve the DNS for the domain name, let alone getting a connection to start loading the page. However, once you get that first connection and know the IP address, it better speed up after that.

If I can see the page is functioning, fine. But if it's really sluggish after 10 seconds, images staggering to be dispayed, I'm outta there, especially if the internal product pages are as slow.

Once you have the IP to the site, the product pages should be 1-2 seconds tops.

[/quote]You think he knows something unknown to Amazon or Walmart.com?[/quote]

Hell, I know something Walmart doesn't know, the drunken monkey that designed their site causes the page to hang up in the browser waiting for the data to render.

When we talk "load time", if I can get the HTML on the screen in 1 second, people will wait for images to trickle in, but if I'm sitting here watching the page bounce around wheezing like Walmart I might just puke. Amazon isn't so bad, for the volume of garbage they spew out in every page it's amazing it loads as quick as it does, especially compared to Walmart's junky site.

I just checked one of my old customers sites, which have some fairly bulky catalog/category pages, about 3-4 seconds and the product pages about 1 second flat, and that includes looking up all the product sizes, colors and product suggestions on the fly.


 9:08 pm on Nov 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

4 Seconds is hardly time enough to type in a URL.


 10:30 pm on Nov 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

Four seconds is too long to load most sites.

On what planet?


 10:59 pm on Nov 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

I love this discussion. 4 seconds? 8 seconds? "If they love the product they'll wait for a minute?

This reminds me a bit of the time when I had the quasi-monopoly to sell a very hot produkt in a big country. It took 5 days to proccess an order for a product we had on stock. People needed the stuff so they waited in line.

But all of a sudden the monopoly was gone and we had 500 competitors. Guess what: within 4 weeks we had changed the whole process to deliver every order that came in before 2pm at the same day (it was 20 years ago, so accouting software was less sophisticatd than now...)

Buttom line: people do not want to wait AT ALL. Everything over 1 second feels like waiting. So IMHO this is the goal.



 11:08 pm on Nov 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

-- This sounds like a piece of nonsense to me. I am in the "mature shopper" category that they surveyed and I would happily wait up to about eight or ten seconds. Four seconds seems much too quick.--

You're making the assumption that most people are like you, but what if they're not? What if you're just one of the 25% who'll wait?


 11:46 pm on Nov 10, 2006 (gmt 0)

If I'm waiting for one page to load, that's one thing.

If I need to browse a site and look at a number of products to come to a decision, that's another entirely.

The more I have to interact with a site, the faster it needs to be.


 1:56 am on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

You can get away with much longer than 4 seconds, if you use CSS and iframes to have the page >>render<< fast, and then the graphical elements can load while the user is already reading the page.

We put Google analytics code in a 1x1 div at the bottom of the page, advertisements in iframes, etc. Works well for us.

Admittedly, our site is informational content and community, not ecommerce.


 2:02 am on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'm definitely gone if a site I happen to land on takes more than 4 secs unless I *know* upfront I really want to go there.
I might be spoiled with bandwidth though.

As far as 50% still being on dialup: of my visitors only 12% were on dialup for the ongoing month (dixit google analytics)


 2:33 am on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

As far as 50% still being on dialup: of my visitors only 12% were on dialup for the ongoing month (dixit google analytics)

We use Urchin. How can I tell how many visitors are using dial up or high speed?


 3:30 am on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

yeah, we all know, that fast loading sites MAY convert better. but this study reminds me of:

Pepsi just found out, that Coca Cola drinkers are really uncool. The study was taken among 1500 Pepsi drinkers.


Look who published the study...



 5:12 am on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

ok, I'm a bit cranky at the moment. That the customer won't wait 4 seconds is unreasonable, as most of us seem to agree. But does it matter what we think? Where do you make your money? From the customer! Any other answer is wrong. If you depend upon someone to buy your product/service then, sorry but you're opinion doesn't count. Pay attention. There's a message here, the trend indicates that consumers are just plain tired of sloppy websites! The lesson is, just in case you didn't ask, take a long hard look at your own website and how it is perceived by your customers!

I can't say this is totally unexpected. We keep expecting the gas mileage of our cars to improve. Hell we keep expecting beer to have less calories! What we're dealing with is expectation versus reality. It's a no brainer. If you can meet the expectation, you may win big. But it's a definate that if you don't meet the expectation, you will lose business.

[edited by: lorax at 12:14 pm (utc) on Nov. 11, 2006]


 10:47 am on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

ok, I'm a bit cranky at the moment but w.t.f.? 4 seconds is unreasonable, as most of us seem to agree.

Most of us? I don't think so. Look at the second hand on your watch ticking away for four seconds. It's not a long time. Now let's analyse this process.

1. You click a link on the screen or enter a URL in the address bar.
2. As you wait for the new page to appear something may be displayed on the screen or it may just go blank.
3. You brain observes this process and after one or two seconds you are really brassed off so you decide you are not waiting any longer.
4. You decide to hit the back button.
5. You move your mouse pointer to the back button.
6. You click the back button.

The truth of the matter is that this whole process takes a finite amount of time. In practise it is probably impossible to do it in less than two or three seconds. People who say that they won't wait four seconds for a page to load are denying themselves a large part of the content of the Internet.

People who say that they won't wait two seconds either don't understand the question or they are telling porkies.


 12:16 pm on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

>> It's not a long time

Agreed - I didn't present that well - now edited.

The 4 seconds was strictly for page load. Or so it seems. But we're splitting hairs.


 12:25 pm on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Every time a page loads on WebmasterWorld just try counting Slowly to 4 to see the effect. In the UK the load time is <1 sec which is great for me.

I am absolutely amazed that a professional webmaster forum is having this debate, a quick site is a no brainer to me.



 5:41 pm on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

>> I am absolutely amazed that a professional webmaster forum is having this debate, a quick site is a no brainer to me.

Ummm....no one is saying that a slow site is needed. The debate is what qualifies as "fast."

Why not have a 4 milisecond site then, since a quick site is a no brainer?


 6:10 pm on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

People start looking at the first thing to load such as the top banner and text which loads almost immediately, followed by heavier things like pictures. They don't have to wait for the entire page to load in full before becoming engaged.


 9:22 pm on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Performance of the web site is key.

I think I am a typical surfer, and unless the site is really important to me, I won't go back unless it loads real fast ( less than 8 seconds ).

when I design a site, I base the page load time on 6 seconds with dial up. then I can increase the load time on the back pages by 1 or 2 seconds.

another trick is to make sure my images load up in the progressive mode ( it makes them think that everything is fine and they don't wait forever ).


 9:38 pm on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

When I design a site, I base the page load time on 6 seconds with dial up.

I go about this a bit differently. I design a site and pay close attention to rendering. I make sure that I'm using my divs correctly and I do source ordered content (SOC). If I'm able to give the visitor the meat of the page first while everything else is loading, that works for everyone.

Performance not only applies to the website but also the server. And then you have the visitors performance issues to contend with. ;)


 10:21 pm on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Lets look at something we all know well: Google. Page load time is close to 0.0 seconds. (that's what it feels like).

Anything (electron, photon, bit, whatever) needs about 60 milliseconds from London to Sidney - these 60 msec are enough to make Google spread datacenters all over the world. Ok, they want fault tolerance and terror safety and the like, but it's about speed as well.

60 msecs do matter for google.

And we discuss if we should aim for 2, 4, or 8 seconds?


 11:45 pm on Nov 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Still waiting for someone to cite a high revenue/high profit E-COMMERCE site that fully loads under 4 seconds at 56K


 12:23 am on Nov 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Loading times of some major E-Commerce sites at 56K
courtesy of Website Optimization
Amazon: 38.9 seconds
Ebay: 30.7
Wal-Mart: 54.8
Kmart: 42.6
Victoriassecret: 41
Circuit City: 51.1
Macys: 42.3
Sears: 30.0
Dell: 40.5
Best Buy: 49.8


 12:26 am on Nov 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

The basis for those stats have been floating around the web for at least 7 or 8 years.

Back when I used to do websites for a major government entity some of the research that was given to our agency suggested that the attention span of the average adult surfing the internet was about 8-10 seconds. Our goal was to load dynamic pages in 4-8 seconds and bring in static pages at 2-4. Considering in 97-2001 there were a lot more static pages, it wasn't all that tough. It was a rule of thumb in our circles that the frontpage of any of our sites should load at around 2-3 seconds.

These days you can force a lot more down the pipe in a lot less time, but the data and code driving a site spends more time on the server while the download timer is running.


 12:40 am on Nov 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

What galls me about Akami is that it is impossible to buy their services. I have tried repeatedly several times over the last few years to get a salesman to call me back and never got anywhere. It is amazing to me that a company spends as much as Akami does on p.r. and yet has such a lousy, amateurish, sophomoric sales operation.


 12:43 am on Nov 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Still waiting for someone to cite a high revenue/high profit E-COMMERCE site that fully loads under 4 seconds at 56K

Actually, the thread title indicates we're talking about broadband load speeds.

ncix dot com (are the mods gonna let that stay? I have no affiliation with that site). Loads in just a smidge over 4 seconds on broadband, when their servers are busy. When traffic loads are light (in the middle of the night), it comes in around 3 seconds.

The more established competition in the same market, memoryexpress dot com, has been around longer. MemX is losing market share online. MemX's front page takes about 7 seconds to load.

MemX has better prices, and operates out of a province in Canada with lower sales taxes. The money factors are all in MemX's favour. But they're still losing market share.

Do the math.

Look at the way those two sites have their landing pages set up, and you'll immediately see why the one loads faster than the other. You'll also see which one has the better "classical" marketing strategy, with good use of white space, less clutter and confusion, better focus, etc etc.

The site with the better load time wins on ALL these points.

If you aren't big and established, and able to rely on significant brand recognition, then you have to be leaner, meaner, faster.

4 seconds IS possible. Maybe not for every page, but you should be able to do it for your key landing pages. Just get rid of the extraneous crap and focus, focus, focus.

That is HOW you take out the big boy competition, and become the next big fat target for some upstart cowboy to take a shot at.


 2:55 am on Nov 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

We use Urchin. How can I tell how many visitors are using dial up or high speed?

It's in the google analytics: view reports > content optimization > web design parameters > connection speed


 5:26 am on Nov 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

OT: Thanks swa66. My old paid version of Urchin doesn't have those links or anything about connection speeds. I had thought that Google Analytics and Urchin were nearly identical, but I guess not.

Time to upgrade to the free version LOL!

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