The Need for Speed


Kudos to Dave Jung of the always-interesting B2Blog.com for bringing up a topic that might seem tired and even quaint in this broadband era: optimizing your site for fast loading.

We live in a world of nanosecond attention spans. That means the speed with which your web pages (particularly your home page) load can mean the difference between a visit or a bounce. As web page design tools get more and more sophisticated, so too do web sites, often with a corresponding decrease in load time. Yes, I admit there is value in having an attractive, engaging site, but if that result comes at the cost of speed, you're probably shooting yourself in the foot. And please keep in mind I am talking about basic web pages here, not the self-indulgent Flash monstrosities that take 30 seconds to load in order to deliver another 30 seconds of information-free graphics and sound. And since I mentioned sound, I'd also like to suggest that you carefully consider the value of loud music and audio sales pitches on a B2B site, particularly on a home page. B2B sites are often accessed in open spaces and during meetings. What are the trade-offs of potentially embarrassing your visitors the moment they hit your site?

I also see issues with ad networks that serve ads from their own servers. I've had more than a few home pages essentially freeze on me as the home page desperately tries to download a display ad from an ad network server. Advertising is supposed to engage users, not frustrate them.

In short, rapidly increasing download speeds for more users hasn't actually erased all the issues relating to speed, because too many publishers have now constructed such elaborate sites they that have negated the value of all this additional download speed. Yes, in an era of seemingly "no limits," there are still some lines that should not be crossed.

The solution? First and foremost, make sure you are logging into your own site regularly - and not just from your office, where you might not get a true picture of what the rest of the world is experiencing. Also, Dave helpfully suggested two tools: Page Speed from Google and YSlow from Yahoo that both test site download speed and suggest ways to improve it.

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