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We recently released our latest quarterly research into the performance and page composition of the top 500 online retailers. Today, I thought it would be revealing to take a look at the ten fastest sites and the ten slowest sites and see what they have in common, where they differ, and what insights we can derive from this.

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Last week, we released our quarterly State of the Union for ecommerce web performance, which, among other things, found that the median top 100 retail site takes 6.2 seconds to render primary content and 10.7 seconds to fully load. We also found that the median page is 1677 KB in size — 67% larger than it was just one year ago, when the median page was 1007 KB.

These findings and more — including Time to Interact and Load Time for the ten fastest sites — are illustrated in this poster-style set of infographics.

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Last week, I was extremely fortunate in being able to speak at the annual Shop.org Online Merchandising Workshop. In the performance community, we so often find ourselves preaching to the converted: to each other, to developers, and to others who focus on the under-the-hood aspect of web performance. Attending this Shop.org event was a fantastic chance to talk with a completely different group of professionals — people in marketing and ecommerce — in other words, people who govern much of the high-level strategy and day-to-day decision-making that happens at retail sites.

When attending other speakers’ sessions, it was gratifying to see performance bubble up as a recurring theme. It was obvious to me that there’s an emerging sense of interest and urgency around performance. The tricky part is ensuring that performance gets its share of mental real estate among a group of professionals who are clearly already burdened with a massive set of challenges in the increasingly complex ecommerce space.

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Every quarter at Radware, we measure and analyze the performance of the top 500 retail websites. And every quarter, I’ve grown accustomed to the persistence of two trends: pages are growing bigger and, not coincidentally, slower.

But while I expected to see some growth and slowdown in our latest research — released this week in our State of the Union: Ecommerce Page Speed & Web Performance [Summer 2014] — I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting to see this much.

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When you consider how many things have to happen before anything begins to appear in the browser — from DNS lookup and TCP connection to parsing HTML, downloading stylesheets, and executing JavaScript — 1-second render times seem like an impossible dream. In our most recent State of the Union for ecommerce performance, we found that start render time for the top 500 retailers was 2.9 seconds. In other words, a typical visitor sits and stares at a blank screen for almost 3 seconds before he or she even begins to see something. Not good.

I talk a lot about page bloat, insidious third-party scripts, the challenges of mobile performance, and all the other things that make hitting these goals seem like an impossible feat. But rather than get discouraged, let me point you toward this great quote from Ilya Grigorik in his book High Performance Browser Networking:

“Time is measured objectively but perceived subjectively, and experiences can be engineered to improve perceived performance.”

Keep reading to find out about some tricks and techniques you can use to manipulate subjective time to your advantage.

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Earlier today, I had the privilege of speaking at Velocity Santa Clara on a topic near and dear to my heart: the mobile user experience. I presented research we conducted at Radware that I’m really excited about.

By now, most of us have internalized the fact that slow pages hurt mobile user metrics — from bounce rate to online revenues to long-term user retention. At Radware, we wanted to understand the neuroscience behind this in order to get a 360-degree view of mobile performance, so we engaged in the first documented study of the neurological impact of poor performance on mobile users. Here’s how we did it, and what we learned.

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