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Don't Be Late to the Loading Party

Posted on 3.03.2014

In life, we all have acquaintances that pride themselves on being early for events. Although their promptness may be a bit irritating to, say, a party host, it is a far better alternative to the people who are always late.

In general, society takes timeliness very seriously: If you’re late to an interview, you probably won’t get the job offer; if you’re tardy to a school play, your daughter will never let you live it down; and if you don’t make it to the airport on time, you better be ready to shell out cash for a new ticket. Timeliness is equally important in the digital world.

Site visitors aren’t very forgiving when it comes to website loading speed, for example. Once they arrive at a site, they expect to see it in its entirety — not to wait for it to load element by element. In fact, visitors will often abandon a “tardy” site for a different Web property altogether. This can have a severe impact on a brand’s bottom line, as the Aberdeen Group found that a one-second delay in website performance results in a 7 percent loss in conversions, an 11 percent decrease in page views and a 16 percent decrease in customer satisfaction.

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Unfortunately, the root of a slow site can vary — from large image sizes to clunky third-party plugins. Luckily, performance-testing platforms like Google’s PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom’s Website Speed Test can help enterprises determine the root causes quickly (for others, see sidebar). But how can you keep a site from arriving late to the loading party and avoid irritating visitors in the first place? These three time-saving tips should help.

Front-End Optimization

Optimizing the front end of a website is a surefire way to improve its performance and there are solutions to help. SiteSpect’s AMPS product, for instance, speeds up websites by using more than 30 front-end optimization (FEO) techniques, such as JavaScript minification, image compression and streamlining inline requests. Take minification as an example, this acceleration technique speeds up load times by automatically removing the white space and comments from source code. According to SiteSpect AMPS Product Manager Iwo Kadziela, this makes the source code easier for browsers to process so that the site loads faster.

It is also important to note that by combining AMPS acceleration techniques with SiteSpect’s testing capabilities, enterprises can target specific accelerations to specific browsers or devices. Plus, enterprises can measure the impact of accelerations with real user measurement (RUM). This enables teams to correlate performance optimization with speed measurement and key performance indicators (KPIs) like conversion rate.

Tag Management

Third-party extensions are often the main cause of slow load speeds. These extra bells and whistles increase page weight and typically load in a synchronous manner. Loading synchronously means that Web pages wait for one tag to load before moving onto the next, which can be a time consuming process depending on the number of third-party tags incorporated into a site.

Tag management systems like Tealium, however, not only reduce page weight by replacing multiple vendor tags with a single tag, but also load tags asynchronously, which means that the browser loads numerous tags at the same time, resulting in faster load speeds. Moreover, Tealium offers “Conditional Tag Loading.” This enables enterprises to set up load rules to reduce the number of times a tag is loaded on a page. The Tealium platform also features “Slow Tag Killing,” which enterprises can leverage to dismiss slow-loading tags automatically, based on predefined criteria. Both of these features can have a positive impact on a site’s overall performance.

Load Testing

An influx of traffic could cause your site to load slowly, or even worse, crash. To prevent this type of disaster, enterprises should conduct load testing to analyze how their site performs during an influx in traffic.

Keynote’s load testing offerings, for example, enable development teams to test sites with real-world traffic from multiple Internet backbones and countries. Oftentimes load testing is a hot subject leading up to the winter holidays, as this is the time when sites are most likely to see the most traffic. However, Aaron Rudger, senior manager of monitoring at Keynote, recommends that enterprises conduct load tests prior to any event that can lead to higher amounts of traffic, such as marketing promotions.

“Part of our service is that we sit down with customers and help them truly understand the dynamics of their traffic — what are their patterns and how those patterns of demand impact their infrastructure,” said Rudger. “Then we come up with a strategy that best suits their business needs.

Time is of the Essence

There is no time to waste when it comes to fixing website performance issues, as an extra second of loading time can result in an enormous loss of conversions. Time is truly of the essence, and the longer your enterprise waits to fix its performance issues, the more customers and revenue it stands to lose.

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