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How Fast Should a Website Load?
Learn the Average Page Load Time and How to Increase Website Speed
How fast should my website load?
If you want a quick answer, the Google recommended page load time is under two seconds: “Two seconds is the threshold for ecommerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half-second.”
Fast matters, especially when it comes to customer service. It’s the reason fast food became a mealtime staple, it’s the reason Amazon Prime thrives on immediate shipping, and it’s the reason I gave you a quick answer in the first paragraph of this article.
Below you’ll learn the ins and outs of website/webpage speed, including what it is, why it matters, how it’s measured, where the current bar is set, and ways you can optimize your own site to make it faster.
What Is Page Load Time (or Webpage Speed) and How Is It Measured?
Generally speaking, a website page load time is the time it takes for someone to see the content after they’ve landed on a webpage.
However, the answer isn’t really as cut and dry as that. Saying “my website loads in X.X seconds” is distorted from reality. Why? Website speed is a fluid concept, for two reasons:
- Webpages don’t load all at once—they load piece by piece
- Website speed varies from webpage to webpage and user to user, depending on each page’s attributes and the user’s browser, device, and internet speed
If you want to get more detailed, webpage speed can be divided into two different categories: First Contentful Paint (FCP) and DOMContent Loaded (DCL).
What Is a webpage’s First Contentful Paint (FCP)?
First Contentful Paint (FCP) is the time it takes for you to see the first piece on content on a webpage after you’ve landed there.
Typically, webpages load each element individually, but not all at the same time. Have you ever clicked on a webpage to find that the top half has loaded, but the bottom half is still working on it? Or have you landed on a webpage where some parts appear first, and then more detailed parts appear second? Then you’ve experienced First Contentful Paint (FCP).
What Is a Webpage’s DOMContent Loaded (DCL)?
The various parts of a webpage don’t load all at once. DOMContent Loaded (DCL) is the time it takes for every bit of code on the top and bottom of a webpage to load. That includes everything in the First Contentful Paint (FCP) and everything else that comes after.
How Is WebPage Speed Measured?
You need to stop thinking of your website speed as a fixed number. Why? Because there’s a difference in what objective data tells you and how it’s actually experienced in the real world.
Google said it best:
“…load is not a single moment in time—it’s an experience that no one metric can fully capture. There are multiple moments during the load experience that can affect whether a user perceives it as ‘fast’, and if you just focus on one you might miss bad experiences that happen during the rest of the time.”
Here’s an example: Let’s say two people go to the same webpage from different devices and with different internet speeds. During both visits, the webpage takes the same amount of time to load completely. However, the first user can see the images loading immediately, if not all at once. The second user is presented with a blank white screen until the entire page has loaded, leaving the user to wonder if it’s even working.
What Is the Average Page Load Time for Websites in the United States?
So, how fast should a website load? If you’re married to thinking of page speed in terms of seconds, I’ll give you this: According to a recent Unbounce Page Speed Report, the average website load time in 2019 is 15 seconds.
The average load time of the top ranking websites in Google is under three seconds, and considering 57% of people leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load, you have an enormous opportunity to increase website traffic just by increasing site speed. People are impatient, and with the rise of micro-moments, they want everything INSTANTLY.
Not only does site speed vary from user to user, but average page speed also varies from industry to industry:
- Automotive: 6.3 seconds
- Consumer packaged goods: 6.6 seconds
- Finance: 5.9 seconds
- Healthcare: 5.4 seconds
- Media & entertainment: 5.5 seconds
- Retail: 6.3 seconds
- Technology: 6.7 seconds
- Travel: 6 seconds
Why Average Page Load Time Matters on Both Desktop and Mobile Devices
Why does website speed matter? Check out these website load time statistics:
- Once your page loads, users form an opinion in .05 seconds.
- Nearly 70% of consumers admit that page speed influences their likeliness to buy
- Only 15% of websites operate at an acceptable page speed
- 57% of visitors leave a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load
- Three of the top four SEO UX signals are page-speed-dependent
Put them together, and here’s what you get:
Website Speed Matters to SEO – In 2010, Google made website speed a ranking factor. In their own words:
“Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don’t just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs.” – Google
Think about it. Google wants to provide the absolute BEST search results, and a high bounce rate (bounce = someone lands on your webpage, isn’t satisfied, and immediately “bounces” back to the search results) is a sign that a webpage does not meet a user’s needs.
The site speed factor only mattered to desktop devices until January 2018, when it announced the same standards would be used for mobile devices.
Speed Matters to Conversion Rates – According to Google, 53% of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load—which increases your bounce rate and lowers your conversion rates.
Speed Matters to Your Bottom Line – Not only do nearly 70% of consumers admit that page speed influences their likeliness to buy, but a recent Google page load time study also proved website speed matters to your bottom line and can cost you revenue. They found that even a one-second decrease in page sped can lower conversion rates by 7%.
They even created a website load test that shows how much revenue your website speed is stealing from you. For example, if this website increased its website speed from 5 seconds to two seconds, it could increase revenue by $48,394.
Bump it up even more to 1.5 seconds, and this plumber could increase revenue by over $100,000.
Google’s Real-Time PageSpeed Insights and What They Mean
If you’re curious how fast a website loads, head over to Google’s PageSpeed Insights. It’s a tool that will help you figure out how others are seeing your website and how long it takes on average for your website to load by averaging users’ FCP and DCL time.
Google then categorizes pages as Fast, Average, and Slow. How it does this is by looking at the median value of the FCP and DCL. But different users experience different load times because not all devices, internet providers, and browsers are the same.
For example, pretend that two people go to the same webpage on a smartphone; we’ll call them Bob and Joe.
- Joe, whose internet provider is Verizon, navigates to the website using Google’s Chrome browser on an Android phone.
- Bob, whose internet provider is AT&T, navigates to the website using the Safari browser on an iPhone.
- Joe sees the first image on the website pop up in .42 seconds.
- Bob, (using a different browser and a different internet provider) sees the first image pop up in 1.8 seconds.
Which webpage speed is the accurate one?
To account for all the variables connected to page speed, Google averages the load time every single user experiences—no matter the browser, device, and internet provider—and catalogs it. Each metric is assigned a speed of Fast, Slow, or Average, depending on where it falls in the distribution:
- Fast: The median value of the metric is in the fastest third of all page loads.
- Slow: The median value of the metric is in the slowest third of all page loads.
- Average: The median value of the metric is in the middle third of all page loads.
An overall Speed score is calculated by looking at the categories for each metric:
- Fast: If every metric of a page is Fast.
- Slow: If any metric of a page is Slow.
- Average: All other cases.
Why Would a Website Have a Slow Page Load Time?
Pretend two runners are competing in a 50-yard dash. One runner has the latest lightweight running gear, and the other has a 100-lb weight they have to carry. All other factors being equal, which runner do you think will have a faster time?
If you guessed the one with no extra weight, you’re right.
Webpages operate the same way.
Most of a page’s load time—80%, in fact—is spent rendering all the different coded elements on a page. Each element on your website has a certain “weight.” This includes everything from style sheets and plugins to contact forms and images. The more unoptimized elements you have on your webpages, the “heavier” it is. The “heavier” it is, the longer it’s going to take to render.
So, what’s the average weight of webpages in the United States? 3.2 MB.
How Do I Decrease My Website’s Average Page Load Time?
If you want to decrease page load time for all users, consider looking for, fixing, and optimizing the following:
- An unresponsive website (non-mobile-friendly)
- A lot of 301 redirects
- Compression enablement
- Slow server response time
- Website caching for images and resources
- Too many resources or elements on a page
- Unoptimized images
- Unoptimized CSS
- Using the synchronous version of a script
- Having too many plugins
- Website isn’t responsive or the viewport isn’t correctly sized
- Too-small font sizes
- Typography that isn’t search-engine-friendly
To get specific tips for your website, enter your website’s URL into Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. This will give you a page speed score and give you page speed optimization tips specific for your website.
However, here are some general tips most sites can incorporate:
- Optimize your images – Compress your images. There are many programs and methods you can use, but one of the easiest ones is a program called Smush.it.
- Optimize your content – The fewer page elements you have, the lighter your webpages will be. To make your pages lighter, combine your files to reduce the number of HTTP requests—including combining scripts and combining your CSS into a single stylesheet.
- Cache your website often – Each time someone visits your page, your website has to load all the elements from scratch—unless it’s cached. Website caching is the activity of taking a “snapshot” of your website and storing the data on a user’s device for future use. After you cache a webpage, the website browser only needs to load updated or new pieces of a page if you revisit the site, which increases page load time even with a slow internet connection.
- Gzip it. – A compression method call gzipping can reduce a webpage’s weight by 70%.
- Avoid landing page redirects – While 301 redirects don’t necessarily hurt your web presence, too many of them can slow down your website. According to Google, “Because redirects trigger an additional HTTP request-response cycle and add extra round-trip-time latency, it’s important to minimize the number of redirects issued by your application.”
11 Tools To Help Decrease Page Load Time
So how can you decrease your average page load time? Use the tools below:
Is Your Website Too Slow? You May Need a New Website Design
Your website design may actually be hurting you if it isn’t completely optimized for website speed. If you’ve done all you can to optimize your existing website and you still see “slow” in your page speed analysis, I highly recommend you get a website audit done by a professional. They’ll find things you can’t, and get you on the right track to page speed success.
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