Boost Sales by Feeding the Instant Gratification Addiction

Thanks to the Internet, it now takes all of 10 seconds to verify that it was Meryl Streep’s character, Suzanne Vale, in the 1990 film “Postcards From the Edge,” who said the line, “Instant gratification takes too long.”

There was a time when, even if you knew what movie the line was from, it could have taken you an hour or more with a trip to the video store (remember those?) to find the names of the actress and her character. If you didn’t know the name of the movie, it could be a frustrating day of asking friends, video store clerks, and random strangers, “What movie was it where what’s-her-name said…”

Instant gratification, indeed. As a society, we have grown accustomed to this type of instant access—including access to your website. Studies show that if your site takes longer than three seconds to load—less than the time it takes to read this sentence—40 percent of visitors will give up and go elsewhere. For every additional second of load time, more visitors will bail out. Especially in the case of e-commerce sites, low load speeds can cost a lot of money.

So how do you make your site load quickly?

Optimization Techniques

The techniques for minimizing load time are not remarkably different from those for optimizing for low-bandwidth connections. But you don’t have to go to those extremes; there are numerous techniques you can use to increase load speed without making your website look like craigslist. Here are some specific ideas:

  • Optimize images: Various image compression techniques, including lossless compression, can significantly reduce the file sizes of your graphical elements. Tools like tinypng.com allow you to upload your files, have them compressed and then you can put them on your site.
  • Prioritize visible content over style sheets and scripts: Cascading style sheets (CSS) and JavaScript code can cause serious problems if they have to load (and, in the case of scripts, execute) before the content can be rendered. Relevant portions of these styles and scripts can be placed inline in the HTML, which means they can be rendered right away; loading the full resource files can be deferred until the above the fold content has loaded. (“Above the fold” refers to the content that appears in the user’s browser window first, without scrolling down the page. This is the critical content that has to load quickly and without fail.)
  • Use browser caching: Some elements, such as scripts and image files, do not change frequently, if at all, and users’ browsers can safely cache this content so that they are not getting it from your web server every time they load one of your pages. You can set cache expiration times for each element so that the frequently changing items are updated often and the static ones less so.
  • Avoid redirects: Page redirects put additional burden on the bandwidth by adding request-and-response round-trips between the browser and the server. Multiple redirects are a load-speed killer. Avoid them as much as possible.
  • “Minify” scripts, HTML, and CSS: By eliminating redundancies and unnecessary text from these resources, you can significantly reduce their file sizes. Using tools like sass allows you to write your CSS and compress it at the same time allowing you to shave off kilobytes that have to be downloaded resulting in a faster-loading website.

Evaluating Your Website

Google has a nifty (and free) tool called PageSpeed Insights that can help you pinpoint and eliminate problems with your website that are causing long load times. Just give it your public URL, and the tool will score your site for both desktop and mobile platforms. Other free tools are available, such as Pingdom, GTmetrix, and WebPagetest. Give them a try, and ask your web developer about implementing their recommendations. Because your visitors’ patience for instant gratification isn’t getting any longer. Helping our clients get their websites to achieve the 100% ranking on Google insights is gratifying as well.