2020 is the Year of Page Load Time – You Ready?

I was recently asked by APMdigest, a community blog in the Application Performance Management space, to provide any APM predictions for 2020. Along with other analysts, consultants, and vendors, my prediction was published recently in APMdigest’s 10th annual predictions list. This year, I provided one prediction about page load time.

If you’re interested in knowing what those of us in the performance space are thinking about, I highly recommend you read the list of predictions.

As for me, the gist of what I predict is that page load time will become even more important in 2020 than it is now. In this article, I wanted to go into a little more detail about why I made this prediction.

Page Load Time Always Matters But Depends on Industry

The degree of importance of page load time is something that can be very subjective depending on the industry you’re in. If you’re in retail, you need to ensure that your websites or web apps load fast. The recommended time when a user or visitor comes to a website has been one second on the desktop for years. On mobile, you get some leeway, but not much – it’s up to three seconds. A homepage should load within those times. If not, many page visitors could be going to a competitor to buy instead.

Google published a survey in 2018 highlighting the benchmarks for mobile pages across various industries. This helps shed more light on the impact of slow pages.

But those benchmarks aren’t relevant for every industry. I’ve worked with companies in various industries over the years. One time, one company in the healthcare industry only cared to define alert thresholds for a page load time of 10 seconds. That’s very slow to me, but they felt users wouldn’t be too concerned for anything less than that.

So page load time always matters, but depending on the industry, meeting exact best practice times may matter a little less. I think this leads to some people believing that it doesn’t matter at all or isn’t relevant to their industry.

The fact of the matter is I don’t believe many companies are tracking whether page speed is the cause of increased bounce rates, fewer customers, or fewer sales. The first thing that seems to come up is something design-related that requires tweaking. But data from Tammy Everts & Tim Kadlec‘s wpostats.com shows companies that reduce page load times can improve bounce rates, customer conversions, and ultimately revenue.

Chrome’s Size Can’t Be Overlooked

The Chrome browser is dominating the other browsers. According to StatCounter, Chrome owns about 65% of the browser market. Who is Chrome’s developer? And you know this …it’s Google.

So Google has a lot of say on all things internet.

In a blog post in November 2019, the Google Chrome team announced that it is considering ways to let users know the speed of a website. It’s looking at adding some sort of speed badge to let potential site visitors know how fast a site is expected to load.

So imagine that. Before a visitor even gets to your website or web app, Chrome may tell them whether it usually loads slowly or not.

In 2020, when Google starts to implement this, your bounce rates may go down. But that’ll probably be because you have fewer visitors. The Chrome badge will let them know that your site is slow, and they might not even bother clicking.

Your bounce rates may also go up dramatically because potential visitors will quickly click the back button once they get a notice in Chrome that the site usually loads slowly.

They haven’t determined exactly how they will let visitors know, but either way, this is bad if your site already loads slow.

With Google Chrome’s market share, you can expect the impact of something like this load time badge to be significant.

Mobile Traffic Growth Accelerating

According to a Cisco whitepaper in 2017, mobile traffic is expected to increase by 7x globally. While the Chrome team’s blog post doesn’t specifically mention mobile, if you look at the images they use as examples, they are doing some of their tests on mobile devices.

Also, Google has made a clear shift to mobile page speed with its mobile-first indexing announcement earlier in 2019.

If you go to their PageSpeed Insights (PSI) tool to test your site’s speed, the first results you get are for the mobile version of your site. The desktop is second. Years ago, when PSI first released, I remember desktop being the first option. No more.

In their more marketing-focused site, Think with Google, testing your site there also focuses on mobile.

And it’s not just Google.

According to BroadbandSearch.net, mobile traffic is up 222% in the last 5 years from 2013 to 2018. You can only expect it to go up with more people doing more business on their mobile devices. According to an Inc. article by Jason Aten, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has stated that he runs the company all from his iPhone. No more desktop for him.

Maybe we all can’t be Marc Benioff, but this trend is not stopping.

So not only will your websites and web apps need to load their pages fast, you will need to do this for both desktop and mobile.

Get Ready

If you haven’t already, you should get started testing your websites and web apps for performance. There are many free and paid tools out there. Google PageSpeed Insights, WebPageTest, and many others. Whichever you use, test your sites and get started with making the necessary changes.

I predict that the companies that do the proper optimizations to their sites will benefit. They will be rewarded with more users, more visitors, and more customers.

If you do not make much effort to optimize your sites, you can expect 2020 to be a down year for your company. If you in any way rely on customers finding your products or services through Google-owned products, be wary.

What do you think? Is this prediction overblown? Let me know in the comments.

Scroll to Top