5, 10, 15 seconds? How Long Will You Wait For a Web Page to Load?

  October 14, 2009

Consumers rely on the Internet for everything from online banking to online shopping. As more and more routine tasks become available online, consumer expectations on the responsiveness of these Web pages and applications have increased drastically.

It all started with the 8-second rule. Back in 2001, Zona Research released a study which stated that users will stick around for up to eight seconds waiting for a page to download.

Then, a November 2008 report by Aberdeen suggests that business performance begins to decrease after a response time delay of 5.1 seconds.

NetForecast's APDEX uses 4.0 seconds as the dividing line as to where users become frustrated.

And the most recent study, conducted by Forrester Consulting, suggests that two seconds is the new threshold in terms of an average online shopper’s expectation for a Web page to load, while 40 percent of shoppers will wait no more than three seconds before abandoning a retail or travel site.

I do agree that the user experience is more important than ever, AND that providing a good user experience is paramount to online success, AND that this number has decreased vastly, or rather, that user expectations for what represents an acceptable page response time has increased. This is especially true of today's broadband connected users.

I strongly believe that this response time number, the one that represents where the user experience begins to be impacted negatively, is not quite so black and white. It is different based on where you are in the process. For example, PPC landing pages, the home page, search results, and the product catalog really need to be snappy. Latency there may have a significant impact on the shopping experience.

But there really is more to it. Once a user has mentally committed to the purchase and has started the checkout process, I think users are accepting of a somewhat slower response time. It's ok if it takes five or six seconds to complete the login portion of the checkout process, or if it takes 10 or 15 seconds to process payment and finalize purchase.

This is especially true if the Web store or application provides good visual feedback that indicates the progress of the transaction instead of just leaving site visitors guessing.

There may not be a magic number that holds true for all Web sites but one thing we can be certain of is that a speedier Web experience is a better Web experience.