Does Page Load Speed Really Matter?

Adam Drake
6 min readJan 2, 2024
Courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/@weekendplayer/

If you believe everything Google tells you then you will be convinced that the speed at which your website loads is crucial to it’s success. I personally think this is not the case at all and this article will list the reasons why. I am not saying page load speed is not important, just it’s far less important than Google makes out.

People are prepared to wait for something valuable

People crave for meaning in their lives. Part of gaining meaning in your life comes from your feelings and emotions. If you are visiting a website you have visited before and the content on that website has provided you with some meaningful experience where your emotions were touched then you will be prepared to wait some time to experience something similar in the future.

If you website loads quickly but you don’t have a good price or your website has bad shipping options or is out of stock, then this is going to influence the user’s decision much more then having to wait a little extra time for the page to initially load.

An example would be Youtube. If you are a Youtube fan and follow some talented Youtubers who have provided you with valuable content in the past then you will be prepared to wait to receive another dose of that. If you check https://youtube.com on the https://pagespeed.web.dev/ site it doesn’t score well. A measly 34 on its overall performance and 4.4 seconds on its First Contentful Paint. Google recommend 1.8 seconds for this First Contentful Paint.

Youtube’s dismal page speed score

Yet so many people continue to return to Youtube dispite this poor score. Why? Because the content provides real value and meaningful content.

The Type of Site Matters

The internet is filled with all types of websites — E-commerce, Blogs, Entertainment, Streaming, Sports, News… the list goes on. Page speed matters for some of these areas more than others.

E-commerce sites and their page speed matter a bit more than say a blog. It’s still not essential but it can make a difference if the page load speed is particularly bad.

If they click on your page but then have to wait over 10 seconds before they see anything, then there is a good chance they will just press the ‘Back’ button and choose the next website on the list.

An example would be online shopping around Christmas time. If a user is looking to purchase some Lego for their child then chances are they will be able to find this Lego on many websites. If your website has a high placement on Google search then a user is likely to click on it. If they click on your page but then have to wait over 10 seconds before they see anything, then there is a good chance they will just press the ‘Back’ button and choose the next website on the list. After all, they have many options so why spend time waiting for a website to load then you don’t have to.

However, I would argue it’s not essential! If you website loads quickly but you don’t have a good price or your website has bad shipping options or is out of stock, then this is going to influence the user’s decision much more then having to wait a little extra time for the page to initially load.

Content Matters Much More than Load Time

When making a website much more of the development time should be spent on the content rather than making the page load fast. At the end of the day even if the page takes 15 seconds to load, if the user gains value from your website then that will be the overall feeling taken away and will result in them returning for more at a future date.

For a blog for example these are the things you should be focusing on when making a website:

  • Easy to find content — If you are writing about a specific thing (I assume you are which is why you have your blog) then make sure the content is specified around that and that Google knows it!
  • Write quality content — Don’t use AI and don’t just write the first thing that comes into your head. If you are going to spend time writing something down make sure a) you have something to say b) you spend time writing out you content to the highest quality you can achieve.
  • Use relevant Images — Humans are visual animals so images can be very useful in blogs but make sure you use relevant and interesting images.

Do the Basic for Page Load Speed

Having said all this I still believe there are the main bases that should be covered in terms of page load speed. These are easy to do and usually cover around 90% of the reasons why pages take time to load:

  • Image size — This is one that can be seen on many blogs or E-Commerce sites where the person maintaining their website doesn’t really know what they are doing. Loading a 7MB image on any website is unecessary and all it ends up doing is slowing the page load speed time down. Make sure all images are optimised and using a format like webp. Especially on websites that are image intensive this can really make a difference. Also serving images from a service that specialise in images can make a big difference. Services like Cloudinary really can improve your overall website experience.
  • Minimising Design — Some websites really seems to include all the bells and whistles as they think it makes their sites look better. It doesn’t. This is often found with Wordpress websites. Things like carousels and modals and pointless animations. All they do is distract the user from content on your website. It also adds a load of Javascript and CSS to your website which will have a negative effect on your website page load speed. Throw all that rubbish out and just serve the essential content. The page will load quicker, it will be a better experience for the user and your website will more likely succeed in it’s objective.
  • CDNs — This is particularly useful if you have an international audience. CDNs — Content Delivery Networks basically enable you to have your content on servers closer to your users. If a user visits your website and all the content has to travel halfway round the world to reach them it will take some time. There are so many CDNs available these days it just common sense to utilise them and keep your content close to the users that make use of it. Try something like Cloudflare to get started.

Conclusion

I see many developers obsessing over page load speed time these days and worrying if a JS library is 40KB compared to 25KB. For me this really shouldn’t be a main concern and these things should only be looked at in the optimisation phase of a website. Spending time on UI/UX and making sure the user knows how the website/web app should be used is much more important.

Don’t believe the hype around losing users because your page load speed is 4 seconds compared to 1.5 seconds. It’s far more likely you are losing users for other reasons — poor UI/UX, poor design, over complex website, competition.

About me

I am a Frontend Developer working mainly with React and Typescript in my day to day professional life. I love exploring new tools and libraries and love the Javascript Ecosystem.

I like to write blog posts that share exciting new tools I’ve discovered, how-to articles and also the occasional opinion post.

I live in Prague in the Czech Republic with my family.

Check out the original blog post on my blog.

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Adam Drake

I'm a Frontend Developer and I write about all things Frontend Related - Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world. Based in Prague, CZ