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Article · 11 June 2021

The problem with slow websites

A slow website is a bad user experience. It can even cause visitors to abandon your site. To avoid this, your website needs to be optimised for speed.

The problem with slow websites

Image credit: Entle x Midjourney

Slow websites get penalised in Google rankings

As of June 2021, Google has officially started using "Page Experience" and the Core Web Vitals in their ranking algorithms. Page experience measures whether a website is fast and usable and the Core Web Vitals are at the heart of this.

Diagram showing the metrics that compose Google's search signals for page experience

Image credit: Google

The Core Web Vitals measure a web page's performance in three key dimensions:

  1. How long it takes before the visitor starts seeing the page's content. Nobody wants to see a blank screen while they wait for the web page to load. Google measures this with the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) metric.
  2. How quickly the visitor can start interacting with the page. The page's content has appeared and you're ready to tap a link on the page, but... the page is frozen for a couple of seconds while it finishes loading in the background. Not great! Google measures this with the First Input Delay (FID) metric.
  3. How stable the web page's visuals remain during the loading process. Unstable visuals are deeply irritating: you start reading content or get ready to click/tap a link, just for it to jump elsewhere on the page that loaded late. Google measures this with the Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) metric.

If your website is scoring low on these metrics, you may start seeing drops in your pages' position in search engine results pages (SERPs). Specifically, Google says this could happen when there are other websites with the same kind of content (e.g. your competitors) who offer a better page experience.

Slow websites are a poor user experience and cause drop-off

Imagine arriving at your favourite local store, but being made to wait outside the building for 10 minutes. And for no good reason — you can see the store is virtually empty. Once you are finally let in, would you still be as excited to explore the store? Unless you are in an excellent mood to begin with, or you have the serenity of a monk, chances are: you're going to enter the store in a state of frustration.

Website visitors have a similar experience every time they visit or browse a slow website. Even if your website is ultimately usable, do you really want your visitors' experience to be one marred by frustration? Since websites are often one of the first ports of call for visitors to engage with your organisation, a frustrating experience on your website can leave a lastingly bad first impression of your organisation.

In fact, many visitors will drop-off if your website takes too long to load. People value their own time and they don't like waiting. Unless they are very motivated to engage with your content, they will simply drop off if your website takes too long to load.

You may think that visitors aren't informed enough to spot a slow website and that they would rather blame their internet connections than the website's creators. But visitors aren't dumb: they can easily spot when some websites are fast and others are slow and it doesn't take long to figure out that it's not their internet connection.

How to create a fast website

A website that loads instantaneously makes a great first impression. It creates a "wow" moment: a rare opportunity to delight your customers or stakeholders, often right at the start of their visitor journeys.

Unfortunately, there are few quick fixes when it comes to creating a fast website. Your website needs to be designed with performance in mind from the start. You also need the right technology. Older technologies and site building tools are notoriously hard to optimise, e.g. a WordPress website with a custom theme and plugins.

We use Entle Core™ to create fast websites. The combination of serverless infrastructure and a static site generator allows us to create websites with great user experiences and content, that also score well on the Core Web Vitals and Page Experience metrics. 

We can help

Book a free call to see how we can help you improve your website's performance.

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