New findings: Typical leading European commerce site takes 7.04 seconds to load

Last fall, at Velocity London, I had a really great talk with Stephen Thair, who is a UK-based web performance consultant, Velocity committee member, WebPerfDays organizer, and all-around knowledgeable guy. Among other things, we talked about how frustrating it can be for performance pros based in Europe to preach outside their community.

As Stephen said:

“I guess it’s a bit frustrating in the UK at the moment. One of the things that I found is that we haven’t yet got that killer web performance case study in one of the big major retailers. So we are still, I think, a bit in the evangelical stage. We are still trying to get the message out there. There are still a lot of websites in the UK that don’t even have gzip turned on.”

So we set out to help fill that gap. In December of 2012, working with Radware (our soon-to-be parent company) in conjunction with our partners at Level 3 in Europe, we studied the page speed and composition of 400 top European retailers, as ranked by Internet Retailer magazine, to see how these sites would load for visitors using Chrome 23 (the most popular browser in the EU at the time of testing) via the test server in Amsterdam. (We chose the Amsterdam location because it allowed us to test across all major browsers.) The report was released today.

While the results may not be shocking if you’ve been paying close attention to this space, they may come as an eye-opener to online retailers in the EU. Our chief finding was this:

The median page took more than 7 seconds to load.

Depending on whom you ask, the average internet user expects web pages to load in less than 3 seconds, 2 seconds, or even 400 milliseconds. The last time the average person reported being cool with 7-second load times was around 2001.

The survey also found that:

  • 1 out of 4 pages took more than 10 seconds to load.
  • 1 out of 3 pages contained more than 100 resources.
  • 79% of sites don’t use a recognized CDN. (A “recognized CDN” refers to any CDN listed in the extensive directory of CDNs maintained by WebPagetest.)
  • Speaking to Stephen’s point about gzip at the top of this post, 1 out of 5 sites failed to implement text compression, a relatively simple technique that delivers easy, significant performance gains.

Why you should care about these findings

I may be pointing out the obvious, but it may need to be pointed out: these expectations are universal. Internet users in the EU do not have lower performance expectations than users in North America. These findings should be a wake-up call for European site owners. (Not that North American site owners should be resting easy. Last fall, we found that the median leading US commerce home page took almost 7 seconds to load.)

Download the report: State of the Union: European Ecommerce Page Speed and Web Performance

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