In today's fast-paced online world, speed is everything. People tend to have short attention spans and don't like to wait. But there's one important thing that we often forget about and that's how quickly a page loads. It can really make a difference in keeping our attention and making our online experience smoother.
And it’s not just about user experience - a site’s load time can also impact SEO rankings, conversion rates, and ultimately, your net income.
In this article, we’ll explore the concept of page load time in depth, analyze why it matters, and provide a guide on how to improve it. Let’s dive right in!
What is Page Load Time?
The term ‘page load time’ refers to the duration it takes for a web page to load completely on your browser. It’s the time between clicking a link or typing a URL into the address bar, and the complete rendering of all the contents on the webpage.
This time can range from a few hundred milliseconds to several seconds, or even minutes, depending on various factors. Page load time is a critical metric in web development and UX design, playing a significant role in user experience, engagement, and conversion rate.
If your web page takes too much time to load, users are likely to leave and never return. In fact, a study by Google has shown that a page load delay of just one to three seconds can increase the bounce rate probability by 32%. It’s clear the faster your page loads, the happier the users will be.
Factors Affecting Page Load Time
Below, we have detailed four key factors that could cause your page to load slowly:
How to Check Page Load Time?
There are various methods and tools available to check page load time. Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, and Pingdom offer in-depth analysis of page load speed time, breaking down each element and its load time.
You simply enter your webpage URL, and the tool will handle the rest, providing a comprehensive report of the page’s load time and performance.
This report typically includes the total page load time, the size of each file on your page, the number of requests made, and a breakdown of how long each element took to load.
This gives you an insight into the parts of your page that are loading quickly and the parts that are slowing it down. However, it’s also important to note that only a selected few metrics have an impact on your SEO and page performance. Therefore, you don’t really need to focus on keeping everything close to 100.
Instead, consider using them to inspect your CDN condition.
Page Load Time Breakdown
Here is an all-inclusive breakdown of page load time. Now, in real world capacity, there are many more factors that come into play when calculating a site’s page load time.
However, for the sake of calculability, the following matter the most:
- DNS Resolution Time: This is the time taken to resolve the domain name of a website into its associated IP address. Whenever a user types a URL into their browser, a DNS request is sent out to fetch the IP address corresponding to that domain name.
- TCP Connection Time: This is the time taken to establish a TCP connection between the client (user) and the server. It's a three-way handshake process (SYN, SYN-ACK, ACK) to ensure both parties are ready to exchange data.
- TLS Handshake Time: If a website is secured (uses HTTPS), there's an additional time required to set up the secure connection. This process includes verifying the SSL certificate, agreeing on encryption methods, and exchanging keys.
- Time to First Byte (TTFB): This measures the duration from the user making an HTTP request to the first byte received by the browser. It encompasses the time taken for the server to process the request and start sending the data.
- Content Download Time: Once the initial byte is received, the browser begins downloading the content. This time indicates how long it takes to download the webpage's main content.
- Start Render Time: This is the time at which the user starts seeing content on their screen. It's important as it gives the user a perception that the page is loading.
- DOM Content Loaded: It measures the time taken for the Document Object Model (DOM) of the page to be fully loaded and parsed. It means the main structure of the page is ready, although some additional resources like images might still be loading.
- Parsing HTML & CSS: Once the main HTML of the page is downloaded, the browser starts parsing it and creating the Document Object Model (DOM). Simultaneously, any linked CSS files are processed to understand how the content will be styled.
- OnLoad Event: This is the point when all the resources on the page, including scripts, images, and CSS, have been completely loaded. The browser will typically trigger the 'onload' event at this time.
Why is Page Load Time Important?
The significance of page load time cannot be overstated. After all, internet users are impatient. The longer they wait for a page to load, the more likely they are to abandon it. A fast page load time keeps users happy and engaged.
Consequently, Google has confirmed that page load time is one of the ranking factors for its search algorithm.. Another study by Amazon highlights that you are likely to lose 1% revenue per 100ms delay in your page loading times.
Put yourself in the shoes of a user. Would you rather go to a website that loads really slow, or a competitor that loads before you can blink? A page that loads quickly can boost conversions and revenue!
Best Practices for Optimizing Page Load Time
Boosting your website to reach acceptable page load times can feel frustrating. Where does one even begin? Page load time comprises interconnected factors forming a net.
Improving the average page load time requires a holistic approach. Keeping that in mind, here are the most tried and tested best practices to help you optimize your page load speed times:
- Continuous Monitoring and Optimization of Load Times: This ensures that your page load times and sub-KPIs such as Time to First Byte (TTFB), Start Render Time, and Fully Loaded Time can provide critical insights into any changes, trends, or potential issues.
- Embrace DevOps Culture: This culture promotes continuous integration and delivery, where developers frequently commit their code changes, enabling quicker detection and rectification of issues. The result? Enhanced performance and faster page load times.
- Optimize Images and Videos: Serving images in next gen formats will help minimize load times by reducing the size of the image file. Compression is another viable solution with the same outcome.
- Leverage Browser Caching: Try to store parts of your website on the user’s machine to ensure your server doesn’t have to send everything again and again, whenever the user re-visits.
- Optimize CDNs: The farther your server is from the user, the more time it will take for the resources to load on the user’s end. CDNS store copies of your site on multiple servers worldwide.
When a user visits your site, they’re served from the closest server, reducing the time it takes for your page to load.
- HTTP/3: HTTP/3 allows multiple files to be transferred at the same time of single TCP connection.
- SEO Improvement: SEO is affected by the page laid time as well. While not all page load time metrics are necessary for improving SEO, you’d still need to focus on these.
Seek guidance from an SEO expert to highlight which of the metrics are important for your specific page, and see a visible difference in ranking! However, Google loves to deliver core updates, so the metrics tend to change with time.
In conclusion, page load time is a critical factor in user experience, SEO, and overall website performance.
As the web continues to evolve and user expectations rise, the pursuit of faster page load times remains an ever-present challenge, and opportunity for web developers and website owners alike!