Five tips for high-quality Web experiences

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Matthew Poepsel
Matthew Poepsel

A slow or poorly performing website can negatively impact your customer satisfaction, brand and revenues. In a recent consumer survey, nearly one-third of respondents indicated they would abandon a slowly performing website – one that took between 1 and 5 seconds to load. Below are five tips for e-commerce marketers who want to attract and retain customers, as well as maximize conversions, by providing fast, reliable Web experiences that meet consumers' stringent expectations:

1.  Know your users. Different browsers and devices download website content in different ways. Know your customers' online buying habits, including their preferred browsers and devices. Accordingly, if your major source of business comes from Asia, it's far more important to make sure your website performs spectacularly on Internet Explorer (IE) 6 — the most popular browser in that region — not just the more recent IE7 and IE8. The same rule applies to mobile Web browsers — don't optimize solely for the latest iPhone.

2.  Optimize what counts. Focus first on the load times of the most critical revenue-generating transactions and pages. New browsers support features that allow you to arrange the load order for site elements. Focus on improving perceived load time (how long it takes for “above the fold,” images and text at the top of the page, to appear) versus raw load time (the time it takes for all page elements to appear, including those elements “below the fold” that aren't immediately visible to visitors). Work with your Web design and development teams to ensure your site gives the impression of speed on your customers' preferred browsers and devices. 

3.  Trust the true user perspective. The most reliable gauge of Web performance comes from studying how users across geographies actually experience your website and applications when subjected to a wide range of variables including ISPs, carriers and devices. Bear that in mind when you consider adding e-marketing content like product images, catalogs, product tours and videos. Remember, users tend to prefer speed over feature richness.

4.  Correlate Web performance to business impact. Many e-commerce marketers assess website effectiveness using metrics like page views and bounce rates, but these metrics fail to directly link Web performance to key revenue indicators and associated business outcomes. These combined metrics can be crucial in efforts to secure IT and executive-level support for Web performance improvement initiatives. As an example, Microsoft's Bing found a 2- second slowdown reduced customer satisfaction by 3.8% and revenue per user by 4.3%. Create a common language that elevates Web performance.

5.  Leverage industry benchmarks. These benchmarks routinely combine data from millions of performance points across hundreds of websites to provide a quick, comprehensive snapshot of industry leaders' Web performance using both traditional PC and mobile platforms. Use this valuable information to determine how your Web experience stacks up. Pinpoint key areas for improvement, validate new investments and measure your progress over time.

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