Your website speed can mean visitors stick around to see what your website is about or it could mean they bounce, quickly. Knowing the ideal speed for your website will help you understand what’s truly important vs. what you can do away with on your website.
If you don’t care about the subtleties of our answer, you’re welcome to just read the next paragraph and see what our goal is. Keep in mind, though that our answer has a lot more to it and our goal isn’t even our goal sometimes.
Here’s your quick answer if that’s your thing.
TLDR: Our goal at Loclweb is to make all websites we build load in less than 1 second for desktop and less than 3 seconds for mobile. That isn’t always possible and sometimes that goal is futile but it remains our ultimate goal. Sometimes features like tracking and chat software are more important than those load times, though, which means those come first even if they slow the website down.
There is no one answer to the question, though. The best website speed depends on the specific circumstances of your website and the devices that users are using to access it. However, some general guidelines can help you improve your website’s speed.
What is page speed?
Page speed is a critical factor in the success of any website. It’s how quickly your website loads for visitors, and it can have a major impact on how engaged they are with your content and whether they return to visit again.
Or, put more simply, if someone can’t get to the content of your website because it’s too slow, they’re going to leave and never come back.
Page speed is divided into two main categories: desktop speed and mobile speed. Desktop speeds are typically faster because they happen on faster internet at home. Mobile speeds are often slower because they’re on mobile networks which are typically slower and less dependable.
There are a few things you can do to improve the performance of your website overall. One of the best ways to make sure your website loads fast is the design it fast from the ground up. It’s difficult to build a website for looks only to find in the end it’s extremely slow and fix it at that point.
It’s always ideal to design with speed and functionality in mind from the beginning.
Do User Expectations Differ from Mobile to Desktop?
Page speed can differ a lot for different website visitors. That can also depend a great deal on what type of device a visitor is using. If they’re using a smartphone then the internet speed might be significantly slower than if they’re at home on fast, wired internet that’s gig speed or higher.
So, while in the real world, users may not expect a website to load differently on their mobile device as opposed to their computer, the reality is that most websites do load slower. So, while the expectation is that they load the same, they’re perfectly used to them loading slower because mobile internet connections and speeds vary so much.
In other words, every website loads slower on mobile which sets the stage for the reality of website visitors vs. their expectations.
There’s a huge gap in speeds when testing with Google’s lighthouse tool between mobile and desktop. You can see that gap here in a mobile test vs. a desktop test.
So, while it may be true (or may not be) that mobile visitors expect just as fast of speeds as desktop, their reality is likely very different. Given that no mobile website loads as fast as the desktop version, visitor expectations are likely never met and won’t be unless websites are stripped back so much as to not be useful (looking at you AMP).
Why page load speed matters
There are several reasons page load speed matters. The most important is that visitors don’t want to wait and you don’t want to keep them waiting. The second most important is for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
Google and possibly other search engines do take into account the speed of a website in its rankings for both desktop and mobile. Therefore, speed does impact ranking. There are indeed hundreds if not thousands of ranking factors for websites. But, speed is high on the list of ranking factors and is important to account for when designing a website.
A nice-looking website that loads slowly is a waste of time making it look nice.
Back to the most important factor, visitor patience (or lack thereof). Slow page loads negatively affect website usability. Poor design looks unprofessional and like you’re not a real business (which is why working with a good and affordable web designer is so important) while also detracting from the user experience, ultimately harming your business and website effectiveness. But, a website that loads slowly can harm the user experience even more.
Visitors can’t see how wonderful your website looks if it takes forever to load!
Finally, page load time is an important factor in click-through rates (CTRs). Slow page loads can significantly reduce CTRs, as users are less likely to stay on your page or visit more pages on your site if it takes too long to load. All of these factors make page load speed essential to your website’s success. It also makes it an essential aspect of SEO in several different ways.
What’s the ideal website speed?
When it comes to the ideal website speed, everyone has their own opinion. Some believe that the ideal website speed is as low as possible, while others believe the look and features of the websites are more important. Some believe speed is essential at all costs and will always increase the chances of generating more revenue.
Being in web design and digital marketing we’ve seen a lot of thoughts about speed. There was even one person who designed their own page and had it loading fast. It loaded extremely fast, in fact, on mobile and desktop. The problem is that the website was so sparsely designed that it hardly performed its most important function, to get customers to book a tour!
No matter how fast your website is, if it doesn’t perform its primary functions then the website is useless. That was one of the biggest problems with AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). It was great for speed but that was its sole focus. It would strip the most essential pieces out of important pages and leave you with a nearly non-functioning, nearly non-branded website. It’s helpful to see cohesive company branding between desktop and mobile and AMP nearly removed that when it was the next big thing.
Luckily AMP fizzled out and is nearly gone. Good riddance.
So, the ideal website speed should be based on the specific needs and specifications of the user. Our guidance is where we start but it’s not always realistic to stay there. Each website has specific requirements and not accounting for that will singularize your vision into only speed when other factors can be just as, if not more, important.
So what is the realistic ideal website speed for websites?
That depends if you’re looking at desktop or mobile. So, let’s take a look at the ideal speed of a website on desktop and mobile!
The ideal desktop speed
The ideal website speed on a desktop computer with fast internet is less than one second.
That’s not that hard of a goal to meet either. With decent hosting and a well-built website, achieving speeds between .4 and .8 seconds is extremely easy on fast internet speeds.
Take a look at this test we did using the Google Chrome Lighthouse tool:
That’s the speed it uses for computers and that’s extremely slow. The 10,240 Kbps translates into about 10 Mbps which isn’t very fast for what’s available in most areas. I don’t pay for the top-tier fancy gig internet and mine is still 300 Mbps.
Achieving a website load speed of less than one second with these speeds is very easy as long as you design for speed. The problem comes in when you start adding things to the website that slow it down.
That’s when you have to weigh your options. Sometimes a slow website is worth it if it converts better and has the tools to help your website succeed.
For Loclweb, we have a chatbot on our website. The software behind that slows down our website’s speed tremendously even on fast internet connections. It’s completely worth it, though, because it helps visitors achieve their goals faster and gives us a direct connection to website visitors.
So, we designed our website for speed as much as we could and understand that some things are more important than speed for us. We optimize our code, reduce the number of images/compress them, and set up resources to load only when they’re needed.
The ideal mobile speed
Achieving the ideal mobile speed is much more difficult. Our goal when building a website is to have it load in less the three seconds.
We didn’t achieve that or anywhere near that for our website but that’s okay. The chatbot again hurt our site speed for mobile. We are okay with that slowness because again, the chatbot is more important than the overall speed of our website as long as the site loads in a somewhat readable time which we think it does.
Keep in mind that nearly all the tests online are not necessarily accurate for real-world users. Mobile internet speeds have got much faster over the years and they continue to get faster every day.
Take a look at the speed Google Chrome Lighthouse test uses for its mobile testing:
1,638 Kbps! That’s equivalent to only about 1.6 Mbps which is much slower than most real-world smartphones in the developed world get. I don’t even have a 5G phone yet and I get speeds much faster than that!
In fact, on my LTE phone, I typically get about 40 Mbps which is faster than the speed Google uses for desktop speed tests.
What does that mean?
It means the numbers are pretty skewed and your website visitors are seeing much faster speeds in the real world. That doesn’t mean you should just ignore those mobile tests, though!
The tests are still an extremely important factor and you can’t always account for real-world environments. Sometimes, even with a great cell network, users get network slowdowns. They also might be in a slow network area or have a bad connection.
Because you can never account for all those variables the mobile version of your website needs to be designed for the lowest common speed. It will be better for everyone that way.
Of course, that means you’re not likely going to achieve the less than three-second goal. That’s perfectly fine, though, because you’re doing your best to design for speed, right?
When website speed isn’t as important as website functionality
Even though website speed is important for visitors and search engines, it’s not the end all be all. If you have to cut out important website functionality then website speed isn’t as important as that functionality. A fast-loading website that doesn’t let visitors accomplish their goal is completely useless.
We have a chatbot that slows our website down significantly but it’s important enough that we prioritize it over website load speed. Our chatbot helps us understand what users are asking and provides them with the appropriate answers. It sometimes also helps visitors find what they’re looking for without having to browse around our website at all. That’s pretty valuable because it saves them a lot of time having to click around and wait for all those pages to load!
Sometimes tracking information you gather on your website is also more important than the speed. If you don’t know what visitors are doing to improve your website then you’ll always be in the dark about your visitors. Analytics software slows down websites but that’s fine. The information they provide is more important.
That goes for almost anything on your website as long as it’s important for visitors’ goals.
Animations can slow a website down too. That’s not a good sacrifice, though, because animations don’t add anything to the functionality of a website. Neither do giant images that are decorative only.
Website design is a balancing act between important elements for visitors and the speed of your website. One of the most difficult decisions a web designer can make is whether something should be there or not.
Designing for less is more difficult than throwing everything and the kitchen sink on the page.
How do you speed up your WordPress website?
WordPress out of the box, meaning you just installed a clean version, is extremely fast, lightweight, and secure. The problem is that the power of WordPress isn’t only at its core. You need to load plugins, a theme (unless you’re using the default), and media.
All that stuff is what can eventually slow your WordPress website down and make it load slowly. There are more bad WordPress plugins and themes than good and indiscriminately loading media will also slow it down.
Pretty soon the core of WordPress that loads in less than .5 seconds on desktop and less than 2 seconds on mobile can quickly become a website that loads in 10 seconds on desktop and 15 seconds on mobile.
These are a few things that can help you speed up your WordPress website:
- Use caching plugins to store and load files more quickly.
- Check your website for broken links and try to fix them.
- Optimize your images.
- Make sure your WordPress settings are optimized for your web server.
Sometimes it’s all about testing the ideal settings for your host. We test different configurations, plugins, etc. to make sure we’re always using the best and most optimized of everything.
A good host with a CDN will get you most of the way there which is why we always recommend starting with the best host possible for your website. That will be one of the biggest deciding factors in how fast your website will load.
Now for a few more details about how you can improve the speed of your website whether it’s WordPress or not.
Images are the single largest consumer of the size of your website and affect a website’s load time the most. If not compressed properly your website will be much larger than it needs to be and much slower too. You can use tools like Photoshop to compress images or you can use tools online.
We wrote an entire post about optimizing images for WordPress which is the single most essential part of having a fast-loading website.
Check out how much images take up in the total file size of a website we checked:
Compressing images can make a huge difference in your website’s load time. Our favorite WordPress plugin for compressing images automatically is Shortpixel.
Before using Gzip, make sure that your files are larger than 150 bytes. Don’t use gzip on images. See the above recommendation for those.
This one won’t affect your website speed too much but every little bit accounts. By removing spaces, commas, and other unnecessary characters from your code, you can decrease page size therefore increase your page speed.
Almost every tool out there offers file modifications including Cloudflare and nearly all WordPress cache plugins. For us, it’s built right into our CDN which is another great feature of our fast hosting.
Redirecting a page leads to slower page loading. For example, if Google has your website indexed with the www and you don’t use the www and instead redirect users to the non-www version of your website then that’s a redirect that slows visitors down every time they access your website.
A redirect chain of 3 or 4 isn’t as uncommon as it should be and leads your visitors to face additional time waiting for the request to complete and for the response to arrive. That extra delay can frustrate your visitor and cause them to abandon your page. To avoid slowing down your pages, keep your redirect patterns simple and efficient.
Make sure the right version of your website is indexed in Google and that you don’t inadvertently set up a redirect chain.
Leverage browser caching
One of the ways that servers can load web pages is by caching information. This means that when a visitor comes to your site, the server doesn’t have to start from scratch and load everything from a database. It can already have some pages in the cache ready to serve visitors quickly.
WordPress plugins can help you accomplish this painlessly and give you the option to play around with settings to find the best configuration for you. That’s what we do!
Improve server response time
Your server response time is affected by many different things including the server, the complexity of the website, the database, and a lot more. For WordPress, just having to run over to the database can slow the initial server response time.
Improving your server response time relies on removing performance bottlenecks that can happen with a slow database query, bad host setup, inadequate memory, and more. A good host should be able to resolve many server response time issues.
There’s no reason your host and website shouldn’t regularly provide a less than 200 ms response time. Less than 100 ms is ideal but 200 is a decent goal too.
Our website when recently tested had a 30 ms response time which is pretty darn good. That goes for our clients too!
Use a content distribution network
The internet is a big place and your visitors can be geographically distributed. Unfortunately, your website can only be hosted in one location. That means the further your visitor gets from that location, the slower your website gets. A user on one side of the United States won’t notice a big difference from the other side of the US. But, a user from Australia will notice a huge difference if accessing a website hosted in the US.
What to do to solve this issue? *daydreaming*
I got it! A CDN (Content Delivery Network) would solve this issue perfectly! Many parts of your website are relatively static and don’t need to be loaded from the database. Images, scripts, fonts, etc. can all be distributed in a network across the world.
That’s exactly what a CDN does. Take a look at our website. The main content comes from our server but the bigger stuff (like images) is loaded closer to the visitor’s home from one of many servers distributed around the globe.
We use Google CDN which is ultra fast and ultra dispersed which makes it… You got it, ultra amazing!
That’s part of our fast hosting and all our client’s website are a lot faster because of it.
What do we like?
When do we like it?
A lot was said for a very easy answer. That’s why I put the TLDR at the top. There’s a simple answer to the question, but unfortunately, it doesn’t account for all the variables in website speed.
Hopefully, you got more insight into the ideal website speed and how you can effectively achieve it in a way that works for you. Your answer will be unique to you and your visitors. For us, it’s best that we bend our own rule because it serves the goal of our website better and ultimate is better for our visitors.
That decision will be unique to you.
When we work with our clients on building their websites, this is something we help work with them on. We advise and ultimately build. the best website solution we can for our clients. Many of our client websites end up loading in less time than our goal but that’s not always going to be true. Ultimately there are other things to gauge your needs on which means slower can sometimes be better.
For example, we recently built a food truck website for a client. Most of their customers are on their phone and want to order fast. That means the mobile version needs to be fast and distractions that slow the website down need to be removed. It loads in just over two seconds.
Hopefully, this post was helpful when you’re deciding how fast your website needs to be. Because web design is so complex, it’s sometimes more helpful to work with a professional web designer than trying to figure out all the details yourself. We’re always available to answer any questions you might have about working with us on building a professional websites for your local small business.