Speed.
Speed.
Speed.

Delivering speed online

Defining speed in digital.

People expect speed. For Crafted, this is more than simply how fast a website loads (although that is key), this is speed in all forms across your entire online customer journey. 

Answer boxes in search results, the rise of voice assistants and AI chatbots, ecommerce within social - all gearing towards the same thing: helping people solve their needs in the fastest way possible. Your brand should be no different.

Companies are having to adapt, and fast. New technology-focused businesses that set out to reduce friction are disrupting the market. Efficient, direct to consumer brands are also capturing market share for everything from mattresses and laundry tablets, to razors and vitamins. Old brands and new are changing to adapt to the rise of functionality.


Online experiences need to design for speed. How many steps does it take to reach the right product page? How easy is it to get in contact with a sales advisor? Where is the delivery information? Delivering a fast user experience is more than just load times, the definition of speed has grown.

Consumers won’t wait for a company to catch up. While some marketers argue for and against whether brand loyalty ‘is dead’, one thing is remaining a constant and that’s the amount of choice consumers have. The first page of Google alone provides over 40 brands and products for the term ‘red designer dress’ and just shy of 700 million results in total (served at an astonishing 0.59 seconds).


Bottom-line:
Consumers don’t need to wait for your website.

In this whitepaper we cover:

  1. The 360 impact that speed has on your digital performance
  2. Testing your site speed
  3. Benchmarking your website performance
  4. The psychology of desire paths and designing for user speed

The need for speed.

The 360 impact.

Speed affects more than just conversion rates. In this section we explore how speed can impact your business performance across the board. The 360 degree impact of speed.

Retention

Conversion

Acquisition

Acquisition.

From organic search to paid social, algorithms based on user experience indicators directly affect a brand’s ability to drive visitors to site.

Organic search.

Google has focused on speed for some time now, from announcing Accelerated Mobile Pages in 2015, to rolling out multiple speed algorithm updates. If your website is slow to load, then this will be negatively impacting its rankings and traffic. Site speed is an integral part of user experience and before a potential customer even lands on your website you could be losing sales with restricted search visibility.

Paid search.

A slow on-site experience will cost you more to attract customers across search engines. Google’s Quality Score metric impacts how much an advertiser needs to bid to achieve a certain position.

Paid social.

When using social platforms, we process huge amounts of information instantaneously. Scrolling through a newsfeed, reading content and watching videos without having to wait means we have inherently become accustomed to good experience and have high expectations. So when a person leaves a social network to visit your website it needs to reflect the same level of user experience. In addition, much like acquiring customers through paid search, social platforms are rewarding advertisers who provide a good user experience.

Bounce-rate impact.

There’s a strong correlation of load times causing higher bounce-rates as highlighted by Google. Not only will long page loads highlight to search engines that you are unlikely to be the best option for their query, but also if you do gain that click, it’s likely that many visitors will be bouncing before your website has a chance to convert them.

From 1 to 3 sec load time
Probability of bounce increases by
32%
From 1 to 5 sec load time
Probability of bounce increases by
90%
From 1 to 6 sec load time
Probability of bounce increases by
106%
From 1 to 10 sec load time
Probability of bounce increases by
123%

Source: Google/SOASTA Research, 2017.

Conversion.

How can you help your customers reach their goal the fastest way possible? Understand their steps to that goal and look for opportunities to fast track them. PPC landing pages are a great example. If a customer has told you what they want with their search query, send them to a page that is dedicated to that product or service. Avoid overly generic landing pages or convoluted checkout processes and your users will reward you for it.

Load speed has a huge impact on conversions. We’re talking seconds and milliseconds of improvement providing a measurable impact on conversion. If an advertiser is restricting its conversion rate, driving the initial traffic to the site naturally becomes more difficult. For example, when ROI is restricted on PPC, a brand may no longer be able to justify paying to be in position one, less traffic is attained and the effect is felt throughout the sales funnel. 

FT.com ran a test adding a one-second load delay to the site and saw a 4.9% drop in articles viewed.

“It’s clear from our test that the speed of our website affects both of these revenue streams, over the short term, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and in the long-term millions.”
Financial Times

Amazon once saw a loss of 1% of sales from a 100ms delay.

BMW saw a 4x increase in people clicking from BMW.com to a BMW sales site after delivering 4x faster load times.

The BBC lost an additional 10% of users for every additional second their site took to load. 

LV= GI gained a 30% increase in online insurance quotes after improving site speed by 7x.

Retention.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Albert Einstein

When we have negative experiences we’re programmed to avoid doing them again. Slow and poorly designed websites are no exception to the rule.

A survey from performance monitoring company Apica, found that 60 percent of consumers would be less loyal towards a brand if they experienced poor website performance.

Bottom-line? Deliver a great experience and customer lifetime value, brand reputation and loyalty improve.

Designing for speed.

Designing for speed doesn’t sacrifice either creativity or conversion. It’s about the balance between the logic and the magic. Help your audience reach their goals faster through intuitive design.

Web design wireframe in a sketchbook

The magic.

The power of great creative delivering your brand identity shouldn’t be underestimated. Creativity provides an instantly recognisable clue for your customers. It’s the thing in their subconscious that says “I know who this is and I know I can trust them”.

The logic.

A slow on-site experience will cost you more to attract customers across search engines. Google’s Quality Score metric impacts how much an advertiser needs to bid to achieve a certain position.

  1. Is it easy to navigate your website?
  2. Is the user journey clearly signposted?
  3. Are you providing the right content at the right time?

Designing for speed is about providing the information customers need to make their purchase at the right times.

Users won’t always behave in the way you may expect. Does your site cater for someone landing on pages further down the funnel; a person who knows nothing about your product, a person who knows everything?

While we’re big advocates for well planned and executed user testing, discovering potential issues doesn’t need to be a complex process. Sometimes a simple ‘blurry-eye’ test can discover challenges of using the site. Test out the blurry eye test on the images below. Try to work out where the core call to actions are, where does the website want you to focus?

The first example, Booking.com, has a clear, immediate call to action. A highlighted search bar and blue button positioned above the bulk of page content couldn’t be clearer. The same can be said for Deliveroo, which highlights its two call to actions in the same contrasting purple button - becoming a rider or entering your postcode for delivery. It still has colour and great imagery, but they don’t get in the way of what they’re trying to get their users to do.

Expedia, on the other hand, has multiple call to actions with reviews being highlighted in the same colour as buttons alongside several options for its users to process.

Air Jordan III Tinker launch.

To launch a new trainer line in the US, the Jordan brand recreated Michael Jordan’s famous dunk in augmented reality through Snapchat. Speed was the key to the success of this campaign. In a Snapchat first, consumers could purchase the trainers directly from the Snapchat lens, using a shopify plugin, and have their product delivered within just two hours. The trainers sold out in 23 minutes.

Four screenshots of the Air Jordan Snapchat filter implementation. Shows the process of how it is used.

User speed.

People expect speed. Whether that’s same day delivery, fast websites, or instant replies from customer service; we’re programmed for immediacy.

Mind the gap.

Instant access to information and the ability to connect to, and purchase from brands at any moment; the expectation for speed isn’t new. Smartphones were a catalyst for driving this over ten years ago, but we are in another period of flux. Consumer expectation is out of sync with the brand experience.

How can brands plug the gap? It comes down to understanding customers’ behaviours and motives. The role of a digital assistant is a good example. Despite adoption being in its infancy for most of us, consumers are using personal assistants in several very different ways, depending on the time of day, device being used and a number of other factors. 

Daily habits with Google Assistant.

Android.
This graph shows the average usage of Google Assistant on Android split into 3 categories. Communications, local and productivity. Communications is most popular at noon and in the early evening. Local is most popular in the early evening. Productivity  is low throughout the day but peaks at the early hours of the morning.
12AM
6AM
Noon
6PM
12PM

Usage by local hour

Google Home.
This graph shows the average usage of Google Assistant on Google Home split into 3 categories. Productivity, media & news and weather. Productivity is most popular between 5am and 7am, it also spikes a little in the early evening. Media & news is most popular in the mornings and early evenings, it's also popular at noon. Weather is pretty low throughout the day, with a small peak at early evening and a huge peak in the morning at around 6am or 7am.
12AM
6AM
Noon
6PM
12PM

Usage by local hour

To deliver the best experience, marketers need to move beyond focusing on the ‘what’. What keyword did they use? What product did they buy? Particularly with ecommerce, it’s easy to concentrate on these elements as that’s where you can focus on ROI. While many still rely on the last click attribution model, it can be easy to miss the bigger picture, the how, when, where, and most importantly, who.

How they search (device used, voice, digital assistant) is worth understanding, but again it doesn’t provide the whole picture. We know that mobile is just a part of the journey, so delivering a great mobile experience won’t solve the entire challenge.

When and where, will determine the device and often the intent too. Searching on a highstreet on a Saturday lunchtime will clearly have different intent to being at a desk 10am on a Monday.

Combine these elements with the ‘who’ to build the full picture of your target audience. Taking into account simple demographics such as age and gender doesn’t suffice. ‘Who’ is about understanding interests, media consumption habits, whether they have children, how much disposable income they have etc. Out of all of this, the key thing for marketers to think about is: “what problems do they have that we as a brand can solve?”

If you can solve consumer problems quickly and seamlessly, your brand will be rewarded for it. If your site is slow to load or the answer isn’t easy to find, consumers won’t hesitate to visit a competitor.

It’s worth thinking of the conversion impact beyond direct revenue gains. A slow site could be driving costs elsewhere in the business. If customers can’t find the information they need or are unable to complete the online checkout process, what impact could that have elsewhere? Are more phone calls being made? Are you receiving an increase in questions/complaints on social channels?

The technical side of speed.

Improving site speed can become very technical. Understanding your performance however, doesn’t need to be. There are several online tools designed to give you an insight into how your site performs using just your URL.

Testing your speed.

Online tools and tests are a great way to get snapshot views of your website’s performance, and your competitors. While these are very valuable, you should always combine with your own real user data to understand the full picture.

Synthetic testing tools.

Browser tools.

Comparing site speed.

Take your mobile and desktop scores from Google PageSpeed Insights and see how you compare to the competition. 

By aggregating the PageSpeed scores for over 5000 websites across 10 industries, we’re able to see how performance varies from sector to sector. The graph below shows the bell curves for mobile and desktop scores per industry (100 being the best score). The peak of each bell graph shows the average score for the websites in that sector.

Choose your industry and put your PageSpeed scores in to see how you perform alongside your competition.

How does your site's Google PageSpeed score stack up against others in your industry?
I work in , my mobile score is
& my desktop score is
Show me
Average Google PageSpeed scores for government websites The graph shows that the average desktop score peaking at around 90, scores of 100 are also common. Almost no websites get less than a 40 desktop score. The mobile score average is different with around half of websites achieving a score of around 55.
Average Google PageSpeed scores for education websites The graph shows that the average desktop score peaking at around 85 with around 70% of websites achieving this score. Around 40% of websites score 100. Almost no websites get less than a 20 desktop score. The mobile score average is different with around half of websites achieving a score of around 45.
Average Google PageSpeed scores for news and media websites The graph shows that the average desktop score peaking at around 65 with around 50% of websites achieving this score. Only around 25% of websites score 100. Many websites get less than a 20 desktop score. The mobile score average is different with around half of websites achieving a score of around 25.
Average Google PageSpeed scores for retail websites The graph shows that the average desktop score peaking at around 85 with around 55% of websites achieving this score. Around 35% of websites score 100. Almost no websites get less than a 20 desktop score. The mobile score average is different with around half of websites achieving a score of around 25. Almost no websites get mobile scores above 70.
Average Google PageSpeed scores for travel and leisure websites The graph shows that the average desktop score peaking at around 85 with a high percentage of websites achieving this score. Many websites score 100. Almost no websites get less than a 30 desktop score. The mobile score average is different with around half of websites achieving a score of around 35. Almost no websites get mobile scores above 80.
Average Google PageSpeed scores for health websites The graph shows that the average desktop score peaking at around 90 with a high percentage of websites achieving this score. Many websites score 100. Almost no websites get less than a 50 desktop score. The mobile score average is different with around half of websites achieving a score of around 50. However the scores vary wildly across the board.
Average Google PageSpeed scores for banking and financial websites The graph shows that the average desktop score peaking at around 90 with a high percentage of websites achieving this score. Many websites score 100. Almost no websites get less than a 40 desktop score. The mobile score average is different with around half of websites achieving a score of around 40. However the scores vary wildly across the board. Almost no websites get a mobile score above 80.
Average Google PageSpeed scores for property websites The graph shows that the average desktop score peaking at around 90 with a high percentage of websites achieving this score. Many websites score 100. Almost no websites get less than a 40 desktop score. The mobile score average is different with around half of websites achieving a score of around 40. However the scores vary wildly across the board. Almost no websites get a mobile score above 80.
Average Google PageSpeed scores for automotive websites The graph shows that the average desktop score peaking at around 80. Few websites score 100. The mobile score average is different with around half of websites achieving a score of around 25. Almost no websites get a mobile score above 80. The scores vary wildly across the board for both desktop and mobile.
Average Google PageSpeed scores for charity websites The graph shows that the average desktop score peaking at around 80. Some websites score 100. The mobile score average is different with around half of websites achieving a score of around 40. Almost no websites get a mobile score above 80. The scores vary wildly across the board for both desktop and mobile.
0
20
40
60
80
100

Avg. mobile score

Avg. desktop score

If your scores are lower than average it is worth considering what you can do to improve your average page load times without impacting your website performance.

If your score is above average, there still may be opportunities to serve a better user experience.

These scores are only an indication of performance. The important question to ask is: "is your website is meeting your users’ needs?"


Tracking real user metrics - field data.

Why are real user metrics important? It’s easy to believe that using the same tool to compare pages and competitors provides a solid benchmark for comparison. It’s true that a set of equivalent data for multiple pages and websites is a valuable tool for comparing performance, but there are insights missing. 

Tracking and analysing your own data can give you a better understanding of the real problems your users may be facing. For example, you may be able to uncover potential issues at a device or browser level, giving you the power to make improvements that best impact your user base.

Google Analytics offers a simple way of viewing your site speed data, under ‘behaviour’ and ‘site speed’. It gives a top-level view but lacks clear, real numbers that can be more important to see before making decisions. This doesn’t mean the data can’t be found. One of Google Analytics’ most powerful features are ‘custom reports’, found within ‘customisation’. These are the steps to take to create your own custom report to see real site speed metrics at a page level. Of course, this can be simply adapted to view for other dimensions to get even more insights.

Need help?

If you’d like some advice into how to create reliable dashboards focusing on speed in Google Analytics, drop us a line.

Contact Us
Tip.
Don’t assume your users have a great internet connection. Testing different speeds can unearth the reality that your customers face.

Delivering speed.

Once you’ve identified the issues, understand which changes will make the most impact vs the potential cost in development or other resources.

Here are the most common issues restricting site speed from aggregating the results of over 5000 websites.

Eliminate render-blocking resources

97%

Serve images in next-gen formats

88%

Defer unused CSS

86%

Properly size images

62%

Efficiently encode images

59%

Defer offscreen images

52%

Avoid multiple page redirects

42%

Enable text compression

37%

Minify JavaScript

15%

Reduce server response times (TTFB)

13%

Minify CSS

6%

Preload key requests

2%

Use video formats for animated content

2%

Speak with your development team to plan out how to deliver the improvements you (and your customers) need. The majority of common speed issues can be fixed without foregoing rich media or interactivity.

Don’t sacrifice UX or valuable site features purely for speed.

As with all site optimisation, don’t hack apart your website in the pursuit of a perfect speed score from one of the tools. Put your users at the heart of all of the decisions and if you’re unsure, test the changes and question whether it will help the user fulfil their need.

Conclusion.

Delivering the speed that we have all come to expect is about more than improving website load times.

It’s a considered process that blends the best of creativity and logic. To achieve outperformance, delivering speed needs to be ingrained throughout every element of the business, from sales through to fulfillment and every step before, during, and after. 

Putting audience needs first is more important than chasing a better site speed number from one of the testing tools.Focusing on delivering the fastest and easiest way to provide your service or supply your product to the consumer.