By Robert Castley
The sites monitored varied in terms of industry, audience and maturity, stretching from online retailers such as Amazon, through to news sites such as The Economist. The results revealed that there was a worrying disparity in UK site performance, as some sites offered a great online experience – both responding fast and being reliable – while others delivered the complete opposite.
The top performers in the index were Google and HMRC, both of which had an average 2013 availability of 99.95 percent. They also came first and second for response time; Google’s homepage loaded in an average of 0.24 seconds and HMRC in 0.28 seconds. Cable and Wireless wasn’t far off this level of performance and achieved the third fastest average response rate of 0.4 seconds, as well as a 99.92 percent load success rate. The worst performers in the index included The Economist, which had an average load time of 7.45 seconds, as well as Bloomberg and Lastminute.com, which both took more than four seconds to load. For reliability, Halifax offered the lowest chance of a successful load at 94.7 percent, followed by WHSmith at 97.51 percent, and Yahoo at 97.82 percent.
Overall, the sites loaded in an average of 2.07 seconds, close to the recommended response rate maximum of two seconds, with 20 out of the 35 sites achieving this. In terms of reliability, 30 out of the 35 sites had an average load success rate above the recommended minimum of 99 percent, and seven sites loaded correctly 99.9 percent of the time on average.
The performance analysis of different sites during 2013 has shown that there is a huge disparity between good and bad online service from UK sites. A difference of 7.21 seconds between the best average response time and the worst is worrying and will have translated into a very different customer experience. It is great to see that the majority of sites have dipped below the recommended maximum load time of two seconds, however, as overall site speeds to continue to improve, site visitors will become less and less tolerant to those failing to make the grade.
It is interesting to see how travel and news sites tend to fall towards the bottom of the table with regards to speed. Both these industries offer timely information, whether it be for the latest deal or a report on breaking news, and it is critical that they don’t keep site visitors waiting. At the other end of the scale, banking websites tended to load quicker than others in the index. It is fundamental that banks assure customers of a reliable and responsive service and it is good to see that this is being delivered online.
For all sites there may be times when a small content change leads to a performance issue, or there is an unexpected level of traffic. Instead of trying to manage the fallout of frustrated customers, as a result of these problems, companies should test and monitor the site to be able to prevent hitches and rectify any issues that do occur before it impacts users. The most important time for any site is when there is a buzz of excitement – such as a breaking news story or a major online sale – and internet users are heading online in droves. Site owners must utilise this opportunity by presenting them with a fully functioning, responsive homepage or they might miss out on being the first port of call in the future.
About the author
Robert Castley has been a solutions consultant at internet testing and monitoring specialist Keynote, for over three years. Prior to working at Keynote, Robert worked as a Professional Services Consultant at a document management company, Macro 4, where he worked on developing custom web interfaces. He regularly engages with customers and has an in-depth technical knowledge in web development. One of his proudest achievements is developing one of the world’s most popular Open Source Content Management Systems to the masses – Mambo, which now lives on as Joomla!
Robert is an authoritative spokesperson on web performance and regularly participates in industry events on the topic. Robert is passionate about the need to provide the optimum experience for internet users, irrelevant of the device they are using. He advocates a ‘three screen approach’ that provides a consistent experience whether a website is being accessed via mobile, tablet or desktop computer.
About the company
Keynote Systems is the global leader in Internet and mobile cloud monitoring. It provides companies with solutions for continuously improving the online experience. Founded in 1995, Keynote provides testing, monitoring and measurement products and services for any enterprise including online portals, e-commerce sites, B2B sites, mobile operators and mobile infrastructure providers. Keynote products and services help companies improve customer experience in four areas: Web performance, mobile quality, streaming and real user experience testing.