All posts tagged ‘speed’

File Under: UI/UX, Web Basics

Users Expect Websites to Load in the Blink of an Eye

Photo: tobias.munich/Flickr

Think your three-second page loads are “just fine”? Think again.

According to engineers at Google, even the blink of an eye — which takes around 400 milliseconds — is too long.

That’s the word from the New York Times, which makes an unusual foray into the world of web development with its article “For Impatient Web Users, an Eye Blink Is Just Too Long to Wait.”

Some web developers may remember the days of the two-second rule (and no, not the one that applies to dropping food on the floor). The established wisdom — well-tested at the time by usability experts like Jakob Nielsen and others — was that after two seconds the number of users willing to wait for your page to load dropped off significantly.

That rule still holds, it’s just the amount of time that’s changed. Nowadays, the Times claims, users drop off after a mere 400 milliseconds, and a difference in page load time of just 250 milliseconds is enough to convey a distinct advantage over your competitors.

It’s that last number that’s perhaps most interesting. Anyone who’s browsing the web via a 3G connection can tell you that if you’re only willing to wait 400 milliseconds for a page to load, you aren’t going to see much of the web. On mobile networks bandwidth constraints are even more of an issue than they were when the two-second maximum was popularized. Users seem to understand this, but they don’t see it as an excuse. Now, perhaps more than ever, slight differences in page load time can give your site a significant advantage over competitors, according to the Google and Microsoft engineers quoted in the Times piece.

In other words, users may still, in some circumstance, be willing a wait a second, but if your competitor’s page is even 250 milliseconds faster, you can kiss your users goodbye.

Don’t believe us? Head over to the Times article and see if Google’s engineers don’t convince you. When you’re done we’ve got a few tips on how to speed up your website and make sure that no one has the edge on you. Here are a few helpful articles from the Webmonkey archives:

File Under: Web Basics

A Guide to Understanding Page-Speed Tests

Anyone who’s ever tried to optimize a website has faced the very basic question — how long does your site take to load?

The answer seems like it would be easy to discover: Load your site in a page speed crawler like WebPagetest and soon you’ll have your numbers. But that’s just it; you won’t have a number, you have numbers and figuring out which numbers to listen to is trickier than you might think.

Strangeloop’s Joshua Bixby recently tackled the performance metric question in a blog post titled a Non-Geeky Guide to Understanding Performance Measurement Terms. The whole article is well worth reading, but perhaps the best advice is to make a video of the page load. “If you want to get a ground-zero look at your site’s performance,” writes Bixby, “capturing videos and filmstrip views of your pages’ load times are one of the best ways to go.”

The filmstrip view Bixby refers to is part of the WebPagetest results and shows what the visitor sees in a progressive series of page captures. To create a filmstrip or video test of your website, head over to WebPagetest and select the “visual comparison” tab.

Some common performance mistakes Bixby cautions against include using “response time” and “load time” interchangeably and “not realizing that ‘response time’ can mean any number of completely different things.”

To help those unfamiliar with the nuances of loading metrics, Bixby then breaks down and defines all the terms, including what exactly is meant by “start render” or “time to first byte,” as well as some caveats to bear in mind when going over the numbers for your website.

While Bixby’s post can be extremely helpful, especially to those who are just starting out in the often confusing world of website optimization, bear in mind that testing sites like WebPagetest are no substitute for real-world tests. “As a matter of due course, you always need to gather large batches of data and rely on median numbers,” writes Bixby, “but you also need to periodically get under the hood and take a real-world look at how your pages behave for real users.”

File Under: Software & Tools

Chrome is Fast, But Not That Fast

Just how fast is Google’s Chrome browser? JavaScript performance-lover (and Mozilla employee) John Resig ran some tests that show Chrome may be fast, but other browsers aren’t that far behind.

When Google released Chrome, it included benchmarks that show its browser zipping away from the competition at light speed. There’s no doubt Chrome is fast and we think it’s already changed the web. It seems, like with most statistics, it all depends whose benchmarks you believe.

Resig works for the company that creates the rival Firefox browser, so you might take his results with a grain of salt. But unlike Google’s charts, Resig’s don’t show one browser incredibly faster than others (except for Internet Explorer, the obvious slow-poke).

SunSpider test of browsers

According to Resig, Chrome really shines in the recursion-heavy benchmarks Google provided. Even the above tests are JavaScript-only, and don’t include DOM manipulations, the basis for a lot of new web interfaces. To test this, Resig used Dromaeo, a Mozilla-created project. Again, put the bias detector on.

Dromaeo test of browsers

The results show Chrome is still fast, though bested by its WebKit cousin, Safari. Firefox is close behind, especially when TraceMonkey (no relation!), its JavaScript supercharger coming in 3.1 is included. Resig points out that TraceMonkey has been in development for two months, while Google’s V8 engine apparently represents two years of work.

Yes, Chrome is fast, but it may not be that fast. For now, it’s probably best to assume everyone’s stats are a little skewed in their own direction. Don’t be surprised if Microsoft comes out with their own benchmarks that show Internet Explorer is faster than all other browsers. Okay, be a little surprised.

Possibly the best thing that could come from the release of Chrome is that all browsers–yes, including the behemoth from Redmond–pay attention to the performance needed to run today’s web apps.

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