Category : Ecommerce

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Every quarter at Radware, we release a new “state of the union” report, with key findings about the web performance of the world’s most popular ecommerce sites.

Every quarter, we find that the median top 100 ecommerce site takes longer to render feature content than it took the previous quarter.

Every quarter, we field the question: But how could this possibly be happening? Networks, browsers, hardware… they’re all getting better, aren’t they?

The answer to this question is: Pages are slower because they’re bigger, fatter, and more complex than ever. Size and complexity comes with a performance price tag, and that price tag gets steeper every year.

In this post, I’m going to walk through a few of the key findings from our latest report. Then I’m going to share a few examples of practices that are responsible for this downward performance trend.

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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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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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I talk to a lot of people who have taken on the role of in-house performance evangelist at their organization, and I know it can be a hard, lonely job. Often it’s a self-appointed role because you’re genuinely passionate about web performance. And often you’re fighting a one-person battle in a workplace that’s already struggling to cover a lot of other technical bases with limited resources.

Over the past few months, we’ve been slowly rolling out Expert Talks, a series of easy-to-digest, solution-agnostic videos that provide brief explainers of key performance concepts. One of our goals in creating this series is to make it easier for you to evangelize within your organization by offering videos that you can use to explain whatever performance issue you’re trying to define or solve.

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*NB: Don’t panic. Correlation does not equal causation. More on that later in this post.

In our latest quarterly research into the performance of the top 500 ecommerce sites, we found that while 75% of the top 100 websites use a content delivery network, CDN usage doesn’t correlate to faster load times. Sites that use a CDN take a full second longer to render primary content than their non-CDN-using counterparts.

Today, I want to discuss why these findings aren’t as surprising as they sound, what CDNs fix versus what they can’t fix, and how site owners can ensure they’re covering all their performance bases.