Ok, I’m sure you’ve heard the joke about the two hunters camping in the woods. An angry bear appears while the hunters are sleeping. The first hunter gets up and immediately starts to put on his sneakers. The second hunter says to the first, “Are you crazy? You’ll never outrun that bear!” The first hunter turns to his friend and says, “I don’t have to, I only have to outrun you.”
I live in Colorado so I have a special affinity for this joke. Yogi has visited my home several times over the years. A couple of years ago he trashed our garage and we’ve learned the following: don’t leave your trash out at night, keep your garage door closed, and don’t leave peanut butter sandwiches in your car. This is what was left of our neighbor’s car when he forgot that rule:
Now think about your website. (Hey you knew I was going to tie this to technology some how.) Which hunter is your website? Are you strapping on your tennis shoes or are you lying on the ground trying to play dead. Or worse, are you just standing around covered in peanut butter? When it comes to your website, being faster than the other hunter’s website is a good thing.
Ok so we all know that being fast is good. But, like the old adage says, “Speed costs money, how fast do you want to spend?” You can make your website fast, but at what cost? Do you spend money on new servers and optimization tools, cut out your rich media, and get rid of all your interactive web elements in the pursuit of more speed? The trick with web speed is to know just how fast is fast enough. Here’s my perspective: your web pages need to load at least as fast as the average web page and faster than your competition. You don’t need to outrun the bear just the other hunters.
So how do you know what the average web page loading time is? There are a lot of different resources you could use, but before you spend the next few hours testing web pages, we’ve already done the work for you. Right now the average home page load time for the top 500 largest businesses is about 7.4 seconds. This number varies a little depending on your industry. The fastest industry, transportation, averages about a 5.4 second load time.
The next step is a little simpler to figure out. Consider using our tool. It will let you test your website against your competitor’s. It will also let you schedule the test to be run once a month so you won’t be caught unaware when your competition straps on the latest running shoes.
So let’s say you’ve run the tests and you’ve discovered that you’re not the fastest hunter in the woods?
Well then it is time to think about how you can improve your websites performance. Again there are a lot of resources you can find that’ll provide tips for accelerating your performance. And keep in mind that there’s more to website acceleration then just front-end or back-end optimization. We created a little tutorial video on the topic.
We found that for our own website, making a couple of changes like using compressed images, and optimizing our CSS had some tremendous impact. But maybe you’ve already taken care of the simple stuff and you need a little more help. If you’re interested, Level 3 can help you with bandwidth, CDN’s and web server optimization. The bears are hungry, how fast can you run?