Retail Websites Slowing Down

Today's retail websites are getting slower according to new data released by Strangeloop Networks in its quarterly report on ecommerce page speed and website performance.

Strangeloop measured 2,000 retail websites and found that they were a discouraging 9 percent slower than they were on average in 2011. The median load time for first-time visitors (that's important as there would be no caching benefit in that scenario) is now 6.5 seconds (up slightly from the 5.94 seconds averaged in November 2011). Each of the sites was tested using WebPageTest which simulates how pages perform across browsers including Chrome, Firefox and IE.

Most distressing is that the poor page speed and performance problems affect large merchants just as it does smaller ones. The top 100 sites in the Strangeloop study actually performed much worse on the whole - 12 percent slower in fact than the same group in 2011.

The report also revealed that page sizes have increased - by 5 percent. The media page size now requires 77 server round trips (which take on average between 20 and 50 milliseconds), up from 73 in 2011. A "round trip" is defined as the connections made between the user's browser and the host server (to load objects such as images and CSS files).

"These tests are important because they focus on the user experience," says Strangeloop CEO Jonathan Bixby. "Site owners are offered measurement statistics from many sources - employees, IT departments, CDNs - and these numbers can sometimes contradict each other. This report takes us back to what matters most: the real user experience for retail customers shopping via each major browser."