While it would be a case of over-simplification to provide an answer to this by saying that people have less time (lockdown not withstanding) and patience than at any other point in human history, there is no small measure of truth in this. People are becoming accustomed, through faster internet speeds, increased availability of pretty much everything at the touch of a button, including TV series, films and music and so it stands to reason that the speed of an individual site will play a major role in its success. More and more customers are checking reviews for both products and companies before parting with their money and the vast majority of this is carried out online. Research carried out by Google in 2018 showed that about 53% of mobile browsers will leave a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load. This is a problematic scenario as the same research found that on average, mobile sites took around 15 seconds to load. The same kind of numbers are true for other platforms so, while the three second rule may be tough, what certainly holds true is that for every second your website fails to load you will undoubtedly be losing potential customers.
Why, though is speed thought to be even more important in 2021? Well, firstly, every year speed becomes more important and this is a trend that shows no signs of abating. As technology improves, internet speeds increase and the use of mobile for shopping and research on products and services continues to increase (as projected) the need for speed will only rise. This is before we consider the impact that Covid-19 has had on the confidence and willingness of people to go out to shop. Long queues as a result of social distancing has already meant that people have continued to shop more online even after the shops are re-opening – so you have an increase in demand to go alongside the prevailing trends.
However, arguably the most important driver, ultimately, is the recognition of all of these trends by the likes of Google and their implementation of algorithmic tweaks that give precedence to sites that load quickly. Over the past few years Google Search has incorporated a range of user experience criteria like page loading time and mobile friendliness into their algorithm for ranking. In May 2020 the Chrome team announced the launch of Core Web Vitals, which are metrics relating to speed, visual stability and responsiveness to assist web managers in measuring their user experience data. Later in May, Google themselves announced forthcoming changes in Search ranking measurements that incorporates Core Web Vitals with existing page experience data to give a broader overview of user experience. Perhaps most pertinently here, included in this update is the incorporation of page experience metrics into ranking criteria for the Top Stories feature on mobile. Page experience and most importantly speed will no doubt continue to form a major role in deciding ranking as users continue to demand instant results. The need for speed is a growing phenomenon that website managers would do well to tackle head on.