While some aspects of web development are stuck in the past (looking at you email), the majority of the web is moving forward at a blistering pace.
In just the last year, this has led to incredibly fast websites that can load almost instantly. While load times have always been important, they have never been as important as they are in 2019. Many sites have already moved to newer technology with near-instant loading, so if your website is not one of them, then it is already outdated (and your users can tell).
Google, the giant of the web, has been trying to warn us about the effects of poorly performing websites for over a decade now. They launched an entire initiative on the topic way back in 2009 titled, "Let's make the web faster" and started taking page speed into account for search rankings in 2010. This means that for almost ten years now, slow websites have been punished in search rankings, greatly hurting their visibility. If slow websites were having a hard time reaching users way back in 2010, you can only imagine how hard it is to have a successful site in 2019 if it doesn’t meet the “speed standards.” Even if a slow site is successful, it is guaranteed to be missing out on more success due to its sluggish load speed.
So what is considered “slow” anyway? You may be surprised to learn that, in 2019, having basically ANY load time is considered slow. If your website does not load within a couple seconds, it is behind the curve, and your users know it. But don’t take our word for it. Google did research on the topic and found some amazing statistics on how often people “bounce,” or leave a site, when the load time is one second compared to just a few seconds more. You can see the summary of their findings in the infographic below.
Clearly, anything over a single second of loading leads to pretty devastating numbers of people leaving a site. This research was done in early 2018, so you can bet that the situation has only gotten worse in the last year for slow sites, as many other sites have sped up in the time since this research was conducted.
Now that you are aware that your slow site is driving away lots of users, the next question to answer is: how do you make your website faster? There is always the option of having a web developer audit your site for speed and make tweaks that will optimize the performance. The problem with this approach is that most slow sites are built using technology that is already outdated. Optimizing what you already have will certainly make your site faster in the short-term, but it still won’t be nearly as fast as websites using cutting edge current technology, and will continue to fall even farther behind the longer you don’t address the issue. Essentially, if your site is built with old technology, optimizing its performance is like slapping a band-aid on a bleeding wound.
To truly fix the issue of a slow site, you need to migrate your site to the latest web development technology. So what is this new technology that is allowing sites to load so quickly? The answer is the JAMstack. Understanding what exactly the JAMstack is may not be necessary for non-developers, but it is important to know some general background on what it does for websites. The main feature of JAMstack sites is that they preload their pages. This means that a JAMstack site has all of its pages ready to go before the user ever sees them, allowing the site to instantly display the page as soon as the user clicks on it.
On the other hand, when a user visits a non-JAMstack website, the page needs to load all of its content before it can be shown to the user, which is where the slower load time comes from. The same goes for switching between pages on the site. Every time that a user goes to a new page, the site has to take some time to load the content for that page before it can be shown to the user. This puts non-JAMstack sites at a huge disadvantage because every single time someone visits them or switches to a new page, they have to spend some time waiting for it to load, whereas a JAMstack site will load instantly for every page.
As far as migrating your site to the JAMstack goes, this is something that will require the help of a developer, but the good news is that the JAMstack doesn’t require a complete site overhaul in order to take advantage of its benefits. A complete overhaul may be the best way to go, but if that’s outside of your budget, it’s possible to convert only certain aspects of the site and still use the JAMstack, greatly reducing the time and money required to make the transition. For a bit more info, this article goes more in-depth on what the JAMstack is, and what your options are when it comes to adopting it for your site.
So there you have it: your slow site is driving lots of users away and the solution is the JAMstack. While making this change may seem daunting and costly, it is within your reach. Look at it this way—not making the change will be much more costly, both in the short term and the long run. Now, the only thing left to do is to start making the transition. Before you know it, you (and your site’s visitors) will be reaping the rewards of a fast(er) website.