How fast should a website load?

Gijs Hovens, November 9, 2017

Page-loading time is definitely an important part of any website’s users experience. This is especially true in our modern day and age. Website visitors tend to care more about speed than all the other functionalities that we add to our websites and online stores. Therefore, speed is one of the most important assets when it comes to building and managing a modern and successful site. But how do fast loading times affect visitor numbers and conversion rates? What distinct advantages does a fast website offer? And how should your website perform when it comes to important speed measurements like time to first byte (TTFB) and the total loading time of a website page? In this article, we will explore and answer these important questions. Don’t care about how fast but just want to make your website faster? Skip to our whitepaper with 9 tips to speed up your website.

Loading time and average visiting time

Research shows that loading times directly affect the average amount of time that visitors spend on your website. Most users have little or no patience for a page that takes too long to load. So in general, slower response and loading times result in an increase in page abandonment. The faster a website loads, the longer people are likely to stick around. Visitors also tend to look at more pages if a website offers a fast and customer-friendly browsing experience. Visitors that take the time to view multiple pages of your site, are also much more likely to generate conversions in comparison to short-term visitors who visit only one or two pages.

Time to first byte, start render and total loading time

If we want to determine the ideal loading time of a website, we must first distinguish between the different aspects that compose this number.

  • Time to first byte (TTFB): TTFB measures the duration from the user or client making an HTTP request to the first byte of the page being received by the client’s browser. TTFB tells you a lot about the speed and responsiveness of your network, the server and the actual site. The location from which a request is made, affects your time to first byte. The TTFB value also depends on the ranking results of your website in Google. Research conducted by Moz and Jitbit shows that TTFB is a key factor when it comes to the SEO performance of your website. Ideally, the time to first bite should be about 0,2 seconds (or less of course).
  • Start render: this number shows the amount of the time it takes until the first piece of page content is displayed in the browser window (the moment in which the blank screen changes and starts to reveal content). A good start render time decreases the likelihood of a quick website abandonment. The visitor will wait longer, anticipating the appearance of the rest of the textual information and images. In this case, faster is better. A start render time of 1-2 seconds is thoroughly recommended.
  • The total loading time is the moment in which all of the elements of a website (HTML, images, CSS and Javascript) are readily loaded.

Research shows: speed makes or breaks your website

Modern man consumes bigger and bigger bulks of digital information than ever before. On the other hand, the time that is available to take in and appropriately digest this information is getting increasingly shorter. The result: a more critical approach towards websites or online stores and their performances. Research confirms and cements this trend.

  • recorded a significant, 7% rise in conversions after decreasing the average render time of web pages by 68 percent.
  • A presentation by AliExpress showed that by reducing load time for its pages by 36%, the company recorded a 10.5% increase in orders and a 27% increase in conversion rates for new customers.
  • for every 100 milliseconds decrease in checkout page load speed, Mobify’s customers saw a 1.55% lift in session based conversion. This amounted to an average annual revenue increase of 526,147 dollars. So time really is money in today’s online shopping universe!
  • Akamai claimed 75% of the 1,058 people asked would not return to websites that took longer than four seconds to load. This really highlights the importance of a fast site.
  • According to a survey that was carried out by Akamai, about half of the interviewed shoppers – who have been buying online for more than two years or who spend more than $1,500 (£788) a year online – ranked page-loading time as a priority.
  • Further research by Akamai shows that the majority of mobile users expect a web-browsing experience on their phone that is comparable to what they receive on their desktop or laptop.

Visitor expectations

Based on the feedback of 1,048 online shoppers, Forrester Consulting listed a number of key findings and facts regarding the expectations that clients have about the speed and loading times of websites and online stores.

  • 47 percent of the visitors and online buyers expect a website to load within two seconds.
  • 40 percent of consumers will wait no more than three seconds for a web page to render before abandoning the site.
  • 52 percent of online shoppers stated that quick page loading is an important or decisive factor when it comes to site loyalty.
  • Shoppers often get distracted if they have to wait more than a couple of seconds for a page to load. 14 percent will begin shopping at another site. 23 percent will even stop shopping altogether or walk away from their computer.
  • Underperforming sites and online stores loose clients. 79 percent of online shoppers who experience a dissatisfying visit are less likely to buy from that site again, whilst 64 percent would simply purchase their goods from another online store. Additional research from Akamai shows that dissatisfied online customers will also skip visits to the physical locations of the store that disappointed them with a bad experience on the web.

Google rewards speed

You might not know it, but speed also affects the ranking your website receives in Google. Good loading speeds make it easier for web crawlers (which are used by Google and many of your potential visitors) to analyze a website and the accompanying content. Furthermore, the speed of your website or online store doesn’t only affect the organic rankings. It’s also a factor of importance when it comes to sponsored search results. The quality score that Google attaches to an AdWords campaign exemplifies this. The loading time of the ad’s landing page has a huge impact on the score that the online advertisement gets.

Measuring loading speed

Measuring the performance of your website in terms of speed and loading time is not always easy. Google Analytics will provide you with some basic insights. The problem is that Analytics doesn’t measure your website speed and loading times in real time. Luckily, some of the other tools out there do Other good tools to measure the speed of your website are Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom Tools (this one even allows you to check the loading times for every separate entity of your website) and GTMetrix. Read our article on measuring loading time to do your own tests.

What causes a website to slow down?

This question has undoubtedly troubled the minds of many website owners. In reality, there are a lot of issues which can slow your website down. Some of the most common ones? Slow logic app performances, poorly performing database queries, routing issues, too much traffic, lacking memory capacity or a flagrant mismatch between the size of your website and the way in which it is hosted. It’s always a good idea to analyze these problems thoroughly. It will be a lot easier to fix your performance issues once you have properly identified them!

Recommendations to crank up your loading speed

Luckily, there are many ways to improve the performance and loading speed of your web pages.

    • First of all, choose the proper hosting and hosting company for your particular site. If you use WordPress, Savvii is definitely the right choice for all your basic and more sophisticated needs.
    • Optimize images and try to keep them small. A large image is going to take a long time to load. If you’ve got a ton of large images on your website, you are adding extra load time for every picture. It is not that hard these days to resize images without a whole lot of quality loss. Besides, images for the web don’t need the same resolution as photos that are used in prints or on wall-sized posters anyway to look vivid and eye-catchingly beautiful onscreen! If you use Photoshop, choose the option ‘Save for web’ before you upload images to your site or online store. Preferably use small formats like JPEG or PNG instead of heavy formats like TIFF or BMF.
  • Use CSS Stylesheets to load background images.
  • Check if all the Javascripts on your website are absolutely necessary. If this is not the case, get rid of them.
  • Say goodbye to underperforming and/or unnecessary plug-ins.


The research tells the story: in this day and age slow websites are bad news! This rings true for all the different aspects that are associated with website speed: TTFB, render start and total loading time. A slow site, which takes four seconds or more to load, could cost you thousands of visitors and conversions. If you have an online store, the aforementioned could equal losing a big heap of money. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to give your site a speed boost. Do you want to make the best possible use of your website? Feel free to contact Savvii. We will help you choose a customary hosting package that perfectly fits your personal wishes and the technical requirements of your website(s).

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