This is the time it takes between when a user carries out an action that causes a page to load or reload to when the web page fully loads or is substantially loaded, allowing almost full interaction by the user for the next steps of the visit e.g. more clicks, reading, returning to previous page, etc.
In more technical terms, this refers to the time it takes between when the server receives the request to serve a web page and the client (the browser) has fully loaded the page for the client.
This is one of the more subtle but extremely important aspects of conversion optimization and running a successful e-commerce or any other website, because:
- Web users are quite used to pages that load within seconds since most of the popular websites on the internet use several methods to optimize the applications powering their websites and online services as well as the networks used to deliver their content to the users.
- A valuable visitor (i.e. a valid conversion prospect) views more than a single page on a website during the first visit.
- And finally, everyone seems to be constantly in a hurry!
Given the above and a 3 second page load time being acceptable, here’s a possible nightmarish scenario for typical e-commerce visitor on a slow website:
- 12 seconds (1 x 12): Entry page
- 24 seconds (2 x 12): Brief searching
- 48 seconds (4 x 12): Short product comparison
- 24 seconds (2 x 12): Two products added to shopping cart
- 60 seconds (5 x 12): Checkout (billing, shipping, coupon, review, order placed!)
This uniquely-determined and hurried user will spend almost 3 minutes (168 seconds) waiting for pages to load in this relatively short visit. If you add an average of 20 seconds for actual reading and interaction time per page, then the visit takes over 7 minutes (448 seconds).
If you compare this to a website with a 3-second page load time where the same visit would take only just over 5 minutes (322 seconds), you can see how saving 40% time while shopping can either:
- dissuade a user from completing a purchase on your website;
- of if the visitor feels too vested to give up, lower the possibility of return visits or referrals.