Page Load Time.

Page load time is helpful to understand how long pages are taking to load on your website. This might point to why visitors are not staying on your website.

However there are two interesting things about page load time which will change how you think about it.

  1. Using page load time alone tells you nothing. For example a heavy page (with lots of images and content) could be very useful to users. The page might take longer to load but if you combine with bounce rate it might tell a better picture. High bounce rate and high page load time shows a important issue. Low bounce rate and high page load time shows a low priority problem.
  2. Page load time isn’t a true user metric. Page load time can be misleading. Google Analytics has another metric which is more useful called Document Interactive Time. Google define this as the time is taken before the user can interact with the page (Document Object Model) even though it is not fully loaded. This is a truer measure, as page load time includes extra activities which the user cannot see.

The What, Why and How

Page Load Time

What is it?

The time it takes (in seconds) for the web page to be visible to the visitor/end user. Using document interactive time, is a more useful metric for measure the impact on users.

This is different from page load time and is in fact a more useful metric for measuring user behaviour.

Page load time is calculated once the whole page is loaded with scripts (things which the user/visitor doesn’t see).

Why should I measure it?

A document interactive time (higher number) indicates the visitor is having to wait for the page to load.

This could be either due to images or the design of the page.

Ideally this needs to be as low as possible without impacting the experience or content on the web page.

Combining with bounce rate will allow you to understand if the document interactive time is impacted the visitor experience.

How to diagnose it

Firstly look at your most popular pages and see if these pages are slower or faster than the overall website average. This will help you prioritise the pages which are being impacted the most.

Step 1: Profile your pages for mobile and desktop. Desktop will have a higher threshold as most users will have a faster connection to your website. Mobile users historically have a slower connection so could have a longer document interaction time. Use averages for desktop and mobile to help you understand what is good (lower number)  vs bad (higher number) on your website.

Step 2: To understand the impact this is having combine document interactive time with bounce rate. A higher than average document interaction time and higher than average bounce rate would indicate the performance of the specific web page is driving visitors away from your website.

Step 3: Prioritise pages to fix which have a high than average document interactive time and bounce rate. See below for an example Analysis. The Crank View.

 

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Where can I see it?

The screenshot is from Google Analytics and shows how load time can be analysed to identify pages which are over performing (lower than the average) vs. under performing (high than the average).

NOTE: it is important to look at these pages with bounce rate to understand the impact this is having on user behaviour.

page load time
The overall page load time for your website. This is based on the time period you chose at the top of the page.
An example page which is performing worst than the overall site average.
A page which is performing better than than the overall site average.

The Crank View

In the graphic we analysed the how page load time is effecting bounce rate on desktop devices.

By combining load time and bounce rate we were able to prioritise pages which needed immediate fixes vs. those which are lower priority.

page load time
Fast loading pages with a high bounce rate, compared to the website average. Issue could be disengaging content.
Slow loading pages with a high bounce rate, compared to the website average. Issue could be with the performance of that page.
Slow loading pages with a low bounce rate, compared to the website average. Not a priority and potentially could have great content, use as an example.
Fast loading pages with a low bounce rate, compared to the website average. The perfect scenario. Use these pages as your website best practice and a reference for other pages. In this example on desktop, there are no best practice pages.
The immedate action to carry out. Fixing page performance is easier to diagnose and resolve than understanding why content is disengaging.

People also ask . . .

What does a high page load time mean?

Page load time is a number expressed in seconds. An example page load time would look like 3.5. This means it took 3.5 seconds for your webpage to completely load and your visitors to interact with the page.

A high page load time (high number in seconds) is the time is takes for a page to completely load for a visitor.

This normally is a bad thing, because if visitors have to wait they might go elsewhere rather than wait for the page to load. To understand the real impact combine high page load times with bounce rate.

Google research found a high page load time impacted bounce rate. In some cases having a page load from 1 to 5 seconds longer, it could impact bounce rate by as much as 90%.

What does page load time look like?

Page load time is a number expressed in seconds. An example page load time would look like 3.5. This means it took 3.5 seconds for your webpage to completely load and your visitors to interact with the page.

How do I fix page load time?

There are a number of useful tools which can identify how to fix your slower pages.

Google has their pageinsights tool which will allow you to see the differences on both mobile and desktop. And given the priority from Google on mobile device performance this is a must.

Gtmetrix also have a free to use tool, which shows you the performance of each page of the page technically and shows which part of the page is loading first and where potential issue lie.