How fast your site loads is important. More so now than ever before. If your customer bounce rates did not tell you that, then Google factoring it into your position in their search results has made it loud and clear. But is the “time to first byte” the be all and end all of site performance? It might be for Google, but what about your customers?
Recent studies indicate that for every second it takes an eCommerce website to load, approximately 7% of visitors will become impatient and leave. While optimizing checkout can increase conversion by 10%. When deciding if you need to optimize your Magento site, it’s a no brainer!
Time to First Byte
Time to First Byte (TTFB) is simply a measure of the time it takes for a request to be sent to the server and the first byte of the response to be received. It’s a valid measure from a technical perspective but not one that means much to your customer. “Oh wow, I can see a byte” is not quite their measure of success.
Page Load Times
Addressing TTFB will also help improve overall Page Load times which are far more important to your customer. TTFB is pretty standard site wide but Page Load times can vary enormously from Home Page to Product Listing to Product not to mention checkout. This is due in part to the actual content on these pages but also to how they are coded.
To improve individual pages load times you need to optimize the code that creates it: removing unnecessary Magento code that is not used on your site and optimizing the remaining code. As part of that effort, you need to look at database calls and optimize them as well. If you have customized the Magento database in any way then you might want to review the schema and look at shifting fields around to reduce joins as well as adding indexes to improve search times. Again pretty standard stuff for an experienced Magento DBA.
Once you have done all you can then it’s time to get “creative”. You need to look at each page design and then modify its code to ensure that the page loads in order with “above fold” content loading and engaging the customer while the rest of the page loads. And of course as part of that you need to keep the important page elements e.g. product name, image, price, buy button above the fold. So redesign might be in order. Again par for course for any skilled Magento Information Architect.
And then comes cache. Magento sites are dynamic. Each page is created on the fly. One customer looks at a page and it is created. Another customer looks at the same page and it is created again. Same page, same content. Caching deals with that by showing the second customer the page the first customer saw. Caching can speed up a site enormously.
There are many tools out there to cache Magento sites. One of the most popular is Varnish. But caching is not a magic wand. Unless you design for caching it can be more like a curse. If you have even seen a cart tally in a site header telling you that you have 2 items in your cart and when you go to another page it changes to 0 items then back to 2 again you will see the curse in action. When it shows the 0 it is showing a cached header then replacing it with the real time value. If your design has been integrated with cache in mind, you should never see that effect. Again a seasoned Magento Developer can address this.
But you can’t cache checkout! So what do you do?
Once a customer has filled their cart, they want to pay for it and leave as soon as possible. With the average checkout abandonment rate at almost 70%, you want to make sure you optimize your checkout in terms of all the above but in particular with regard to design. Any surprises such as unexpected shipping costs, any friction such as coupons being rejected without proper explanation or any distractions such as new products being offered is going to increase the chances of them leaving checkout and possibly not returning.
Once they get to checkout, you need them to stay in check out and finish as soon as possible before they change their minds. By streamlining your checkout, you can increase conversion by up to 10%! A skilled Magento Solution Specialist can help with that.
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