It Ain’t Heavy, It’s My Website

And the load doesn’t weigh me down at all. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.  — The Hollies

Look, it’s understandable. Mom’s sausage stuffing. Uncle Bob’s three-cheese guacamole bacon dip. Your husband’s Icebox Cake. You’re going to slog through the holidays carrying some extra weight, moving a little slower. But your website?

This past holiday season Internet retailers loaded up their websites like pack mules crossing the Sierra Nevadas. In increasing numbers, shoppers were viewing stuff and buying it on their huge Samsung Galaxies and iPhone Sixes. Verizon introduced LTE, which is 10 times faster than 3G. For online marketers, it truly was Christmas. They crammed product images into their websites as if they were digital versions of the old Sears catalog. As a result, page load times rose to dangerously high levels. According to Catchpoint Systems, desktop load times went from 2.03 seconds during Holiday 2013 to 2.43 in 2014. Mobile load averages, which were a speedy 1.33 seconds in ’13 ballooned to 2.17. In a too-fast world, two seconds is the point at which a significant portion of people harrumph and check out another site.

“These websites are starting to look like the 50-pound turkeys on steroids at holiday dinner. If you look at how fast things are getting, load times should be going down. Instead, they’re going up!” says Catchpoint CEO Mehdi Daoudi (at left). “The size of some of these images! You ponder what the heck are they thinking.  Maybe the phone has a bigger screen, but it’s still a freaking phone on a network that is saturated.”

The proliferation of cell phone towers has not kept pace with either improvements in device technology or the imaginations of eager digital marketers. A product manager loads a cool image, but it’s two megs big and he doesn’t compress it. Users of iOS are the biggest buyers in the e-com ecosphere, and marketers wanting to accommodate them cram tons of new code into pages for retina display iPads.

“The size of the images is enemy number one,” Daoudi says. “You’ve got to optimize the images. Size matters.”

Marketers also need to take stock of everything that’s happening on their sites on a regular basis. Ghostery, which recently launched an enterprise software version of its “who’s on my session?” app for consumers, found that many e-retailers have a dozen or more concerns tagging their sites that they have no idea about. To Daoudi, whether they’re authorized third parties or intruders, tags are getting out of control. “They’ve added up from one or two tags to 50, and they don’t add up in a good way,” Daoudi says.

Perhaps marketers should take some inspiration from The Hollies and try to work a little brotherly love into their relationships with IT. “Really, it all goes back to the biggest challenge we face: How does IT and marketing work together?” Daoudi says. “That’s the thing, and with all the apps and all the technology we have, we still can’t solve it.”

In the meantime, e-commers, the holidays are long gone. It’s time to shed some unwanted kilobytes from your sites. Because you’re not The Hollies, and your website ain’t your brother, it’s your business.

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