How to incorporate speed into your website design strategy

A website’s design has always been an integral part of a brand’s emotional engagement with consumers. Good design helps to accomplish the twin purposes of evoking emotion and driving revenue. In fact, 52% of users choose not to make a purchase from a website due to poor navigation and overall aesthetics. What some visual designers still struggle with, however, is incorporating the value of website speed into their principles of website design, and striking a successful balance between speed and aesthetics.

Users’ expectations of the internet have shifted toward a fast and frictionless experience that delivers results quickly. Research shows that internet users expect websites to load in less than three seconds and Google continues to reiterate the importance of website speed and also factors it into their algorithm for search rankings.  

The mechanism of consumption has also changed where a compact mobile experience or surfing and purchasing via a mobile device is preferred. Additional research shows that 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Speed, efficiency and convenience have become table stakes for websites and need to be made a priority. 

There is still a need for great website design, but it must never be at the expense of website speed and performance. Design decisions must be taken in the context of a user's desire for website performance. Better website performance will have a positive effect on bounce rates and conversion, all of which helps drive revenue. Here are a few things to consider when incorporating speed into your website design.

1. Complexity reduces conversions

We all know that people tend to shy away from complex and clunky experiences, and this is especially true for website visitors who exit, which negatively impacts your conversions. But what exactly does it mean when web pages are too complex? Two critical factors that lower conversion rates are 1) the number of page elements, and 2) the number of images. 

Page elements add to a page’s weight and when left unchecked, it can cause load times to be volatile. A typical web page today weighs 2,486KB and contains hundreds of assets, many of which don’t add value to the overall experience and are often unoptimized. The number of images on a page are also a great predictor of conversions. Graphic elements such as icons, favicons, logos, fonts, and product images often occupy two-thirds of a page’s total weight and can directly impact load times. A SOASTA research initiative, in partnership with Google, revealed that fewer images per page create more conversions. 

The solve? A web development platform that allows for easy image compression will help your website load faster. Lazy loading images is also a best practice for designers and developers that improves load time and saves bandwidth.

2. Slow pages increase bounce

When it comes to bounce rates, the probability of bounce increases 32% as page load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds. To get visitors to explore beyond your site’s first page, it needs to run fast and load quickly. Instead of focusing all efforts on design aesthetics and imagery, design strategies should consider attributes and elements that significantly affect bounce rates. For example, DOM ready time indicates how long it takes a page’s HTML code to be received and parsed by the browser. SOASTA research found that websites with slower DOM ready times had higher bounce rates. Equally important, is full-page load time, which represents the loading of images, fonts, CSS codes, and other visual components. SOASTA also found that faster full-site load times lead to lower bounce rates. Taking time to optimize these speed-oriented page factors can help reduce bounce rates.

3. Mobile speed impacts experience

Most web design starts with the desktop experience. But the fact is, more than 70% of web traffic comes from mobile. In 2016, Google started including mobile speed metrics in their mobile search rankings. And, since mobile has become the medium for web surfing, it is crucially important, if not more, to ensure the speed of your website’s mobile performance is top of mind so that websites can deliver an effective and memorable experience that lives beyond the desktop. And experience will positively impact conversion, which is critical - by 2021, mobile e-commerce sales are expected to account for 54% of total ecommerce sales.

Website speed is a factor that should be considered in all aspects of website design. It represents what’s important to today’s consumers and directly impacts metrics that are important to website owners, such as conversions, bounce rate, and overall experience. Prioritizing speed in your website’s design and moving from a complex, design-heavy website to a fast, mobile-oriented experience can help drive traffic, and increase revenue.

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It's time to make speed a priority