The widespread availability of fixed line and mobile broadband has made the internet a faster, smoother place for the majority of users. However, it has also significantly raised expectations with the result that sites which are poorly optimised for speed will be ignored in favour of those that load quickly and perform consistently.
Google Analytics regularly publishes Site Speed reports in order to demonstrate which sites are fastest loading and which countries around the world routinely offer the best performance for web browsers.
Interestingly, one of the most recent reports suggests that the gap between desktop and mobile browsing is closing at a faster rate than some had predicted. This means that optimisation needs to take into account not only traffic from a laptop or desktop, but also visitors who are connected wirelessly and who are browsing via a tablet or smartphone.
The mean page load time for mobile devices sits at just over ten seconds, while twenty nine per cent of web pages viewed from a mobile device take between three and seven seconds to load.
While desktop machines with a landline connection clearly have an advantage, Google has pointed out that these figures take into account sites designed specifically to be viewed on a smartphone. This suggests that there is perhaps room for improvement when it comes to page load speeds, potentially attainable through even better optimisation and management of web server resources.
For businesses that rely upon making a good first impression through their web presence regardless as to the platform on which it is viewed, taking a proactive approach to mobile page load speeds will almost certainly deliver better conversion rates and repeat custom.
Google's latest breakdown of the page load times across different industry sectors makes for interesting reading. Sites relating to the automotive industry are at the top of the charts, with mean load times of under six seconds, closely followed by those in health, beauty and e-commerce.
Only three sectors exceeded the eight second mean page load time mark, with entertainment and housing sites taking almost nine seconds, perhaps understandable given the inherent rich media involvement.
News sites languished at the bottom of the table with a mean load time of almost 13 seconds. Key reasons behind this position are believed to include sheer traffic volumes and their appeal to an ever growing mobile audience by dint of the content and services they provide. However, this does not prohibit further optimisation with the aim of lowering these averages and improving the value of such sites to the end user.
Other factors are known to influence these statistics; most notably the necessarily international nature of the results. However, when you look at the country-by-country breakdown, the UK is in a good position, with mean page load times of just under five seconds putting it in fourth place behind Canada, Sweden and market-leading Japan.
For individual statistics, it is possible to use Google Analytics to learn a lot more about the page load speeds associated with your site and to adjust your strategy accordingly.