New report: What we’ve learned from two years of watching the top 2,000 e-commerce websites

Yesterday was a busy day for us here at Strangeloop. We released our second annual “state of the union” report on the page speed and performance of 2,000 leading e-commerce websites.

Infographics: 2012 State of the Union for E-Commerce Page Speed and Website Performance

We came up with the idea of conducting these reports over a year ago, when we realized there was no way to track performance changes and trends — from a real user’s perspective — on an ongoing basis. As I mentioned to CNet’s Stephen Shankland, when we talked about the report the other day, we can’t rely on benchmarking tests run out of data centers to give us any relevant sense of how our sites are actually performing out in the real world. They’ve got ridiculous bandwidth, and they’re parked right next to the content delivery machines, so they’ve got zero latency. By using WebPagetest — which simulates how fast a site loads in a real user’s browser — to measure the performance of the same set of 2,000 sites year after year, we can compare real-world performance snapshots and see what’s changed, and what’s caused the changes.

I don’t want to give away all our findings, the highlights of which are illustrated in the infographics above, but a couple of interesting things we discovered:

  • Pages have gotten bigger — from an average of 86 requests last year to 98 requests this year. This kind of growth is consistent with trends identified via the HTTP Archive.
  • Repeat views are a whopping 20% slower than they were last year, probably due to the the number of page objects.
  • Page Speed scores have gotten significantly worse, from 83% last year to 75% now. I was just talking to Pat Meenan, who created WebPagetest, and he pointed out that a probable reason for the drop is because the newest version of Page Speed checks for more optimizations, which has resulted in lower scores across the board. (Side note: It’s important to know that Page Speed doesn’t take into account advanced front-end content optimization techniques — nor could it, because there are way too many of them to track and measure. As a for-instance, we’ve had experiences here at Strangeloop where we’ve taken a page with a perfect Page Speed score, accelerated it with Site Optimizer, cut load time in half, and ended up with a new Page Speed score of 74%.)

While the findings are a mixed bag of good and bad news, to me the most exciting takeaway is the  attention this report has received from major media outlets like CBS News. It goes to confirm what became evident over Black Friday: site speed has become a mainstream issue.

Download the report: 2012 State of the Union: E-Commerce Page Speed and Website Performance

Download a high-res version of the infographics above (feel free to re-post): Poster: E-Commerce Page Speed and Website Performance (2012)

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