Have you ever thought to yourself, “this website loads far too quickly, I don’t like it!”? Probably not.
The internet is incredibly fast—and we expect it to be. If a keystroke or mouse-click forces us to wait and stare at a blank screen, we get a very specific form of nostalgia for the screeching tones of the dial-up days—not the good kind of nostalgia. We’ve gotten used to speed so much that we only really notice it when it’s gone, and it’s frustrating.
This simple fact is often forgotten in the midst of development projects. It’s hard enough to build web properties and customer experiences that are attractive and intuitive, responsive and mobile-friendly, and search engine optimized and effectively marketed. No matter how good your website is, most people won’t wait to see it. Slow sites kill sales.
If a keystroke or mouse-click forces us to wait and stare at a blank screen, we get a very specific form of nostalgia for the screeching tones of the dial-up days—not the good kind of nostalgia.
Let’s try an experiment: out loud, count 4 seconds (using ‘Mississippis’ or ‘steamboats’ or whatever you prefer). Written down, 4 seconds doesn’t sound like a long time, but counting it out loud shows just how long it is. If someone is on your website trying to give you money, it’s rude to make them wait. Customers feel the same way, and every 4 second page load causes about 60% of users to lose interest and leave.
At 1 second, the numbers are a bit better, but still result in about 1 in 14 fewer conversions and 1 in 6 more dissatisfied customers. So how do we avoid building slow websites, or know when our fast websites are liable to slow down?
We use performance testing.
We know performance testing may not have a reputation for being the most exciting part of a development project, but it’s the work that ensures that your customers experience your brand online as you intended.
Performance testing, specifically load testing, can save you from being a victim of your own success. If you’ve created a site that lots of people want to visit, at a certain point there is only so much bandwidth and computing power to go around, and each additional user slows the site down for everyone else.
Quick page-loads can turn to molasses as your server struggles to keep up with the requests of a growing number of browsers. Sometimes it gets to be too much, and everything comes crashing down. In those cases the wait time is much longer than 4 seconds.
Load tests tell you how much your website can take, and warn you when it will start to break. Given the low marginal cost of spinning up a new cloud server or increasing the amount of available bandwidth in a crunch, it’s essential to know when additional resources will be needed to preserve the integrity of your customer experience.
Of course the other option is to impose slow service on your potential customers. Your competitors will send their thanks.