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Save the Internet from WordPress speed abuse.

Updated: December 2017

3 minute read

How could we resist a list of select WordPress websites reported as “cool” – as in neat-o or spiffy? They described the  sites as astonishing and perfect examples. Our curiosity got the best of us. We had to know how fast these “cool” websites loaded in browser windows. You can see the article and website thumbnails at:  25 Cool Websites Made with WordPress

T
urns out not all the websites were done with WordPress. Oops! They note these errors in the article’s comment section. There were only a few offenses – but demonstrated this wasn’t a well-researched article. Credibility in the toilet!

To make fast measurements of load time (speed), we used a Firefox Add-on. It allows us to get the page load time of any web page. That add-on is app.telemetry Page Speed Monitor. The Chrome browser extension equivalent is Page load time. As soon as you access a page, you’ll see the load time in the Firefox browser status bar. Is it a more scientific measurement? Not really. But it’s better than nothing and fast. We didn’t want to wait in line at Pingdom.com or WebPagetest.org.

We accessed each featured website’s home page. As expected, we saw appalling long load times. But just how bad were these “cool” websites for poor speed?

How good is good enough?

We’ve written before about the audience expectation for wait time. Here’s a quick summary:

response-time
Viewer expectation of page load time.

Usability studies established how long people expect “machines” to take. Passing seconds alter human perception. These human expectations have not changed for over 30 years.

Sub-second page loads have the illusion of instant response. This is often achievable on the web under excellent and pricey hosting conditions. Or use cheaper speed strategy and build a fast site – even on shared hosting.

A one-second page load, or page change when clicked, yields a seamless flow of thought. This meets an ideal criterion of having the user be “in the flow.” Changes are not noticed thus causing no distractions.

After 10 seconds of waiting, attention begins to wane. This is the point where users will bail out off a page. They may begin another search or hit the back button. At 11 seconds, the “visitor” is usually gone for good. Only the die hard who arrived with an exact purpose – or knows the value of the website content – will hang on – maybe? But at the least, it’s still annoying and frustrating.

We’ve suggested a WordPress standard of a two-second, load-time goal or performance budget. Especially for Google’s mobile-first indexing. This is for sites using low-cost shared hosting. It’s not perfection but it’s “good enough.” We’ve proven it’s possible.

So how did the sample of 25 “cool” websites measure up?

Eleven sites loaded in under 11 seconds and eight were under 10 seconds. None of the sites loaded in under 2 seconds. The fastest site (Facebook blog) was 3.44 seconds. They were trying to set a good example but still had poor performance.

The rest of the 14 remaining websites loaded anywhere from 12 seconds to 40 seconds. The medium being 15 to 20 seconds. These are horrible load times. Many sites showed spinner indicators. Users then wait and watch the little animated whirling icon. These are throwbacks to Flash animated websites that most everyone hated.

Our conclusion: the “cool” factor had too big of a performance price tag. It rendered a poor user experience – or even better said, “No user experience.”

Godspeed—

Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

What others think of us:


"That's very helpful. What a thorough speed report. I already implemented some of these changes. Thank You Steve!" comelody.com, Tiberius, Israel

by - Shlomi Tsur