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Users Expect Websites to Load in the Blink of an Eye


Photo: tobias.munich/Flickr

Think your three-second page loads are “just fine”? Think again.

According to engineers at Google, even the blink of an eye — which takes around 400 milliseconds — is too long.

That’s the word from the New York Times, which makes an unusual foray into the world of web development with its article “For Impatient Web Users, an Eye Blink Is Just Too Long to Wait.”

Some web developers may remember the days of the two-second rule (and no, not the one that applies to dropping food on the floor). The established wisdom — well-tested at the time by usability experts like Jakob Nielsen and others — was that after two seconds the number of users willing to wait for your page to load dropped off significantly.

That rule still holds, it’s just the amount of time that’s changed. Nowadays, the Times claims, users drop off after a mere 400 milliseconds, and a difference in page load time of just 250 milliseconds is enough to convey a distinct advantage over your competitors.

It’s that last number that’s perhaps most interesting. Anyone who’s browsing the web via a 3G connection can tell you that if you’re only willing to wait 400 milliseconds for a page to load, you aren’t going to see much of the web. On mobile networks bandwidth constraints are even more of an issue than they were when the two-second maximum was popularized. Users seem to understand this, but they don’t see it as an excuse. Now, perhaps more than ever, slight differences in page load time can give your site a significant advantage over competitors, according to the Google and Microsoft engineers quoted in the Times piece.

In other words, users may still, in some circumstance, be willing a wait a second, but if your competitor’s page is even 250 milliseconds faster, you can kiss your users goodbye.

Don’t believe us? Head over to the Times article and see if Google’s engineers don’t convince you. When you’re done we’ve got a few tips on how to speed up your website and make sure that no one has the edge on you. Here are a few helpful articles from the Webmonkey archives:

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This entry was posted on Sunday, March 4th, 2012 at 7:34 pm and is filed under internet, Tools. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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