If you asked the average internet user how slow a website would need to load before they gave up and left, they might say something like 8 or 10 seconds. Unfortunately, visitors actually give up on websites much faster. After about the 2-second mark, your bounce rate starts to rapidly increase. So what is the secret to the 2-second website?

Bounce rate increases after the 2-second website
Source: ThinkWithGoogle

To answer that, we’ll look below at 3 incredibly popular websites that have pulled it off.

Google

Google speed test under 2-seconds

Craigslist

Craigslist speed test under 2-seconds

Wikipedia

Wiki speed test under 2-seconds

If you’re feeling like 2 seconds it’s an impossible mark to reach with the amount of content you have, you’re not alone. We recently did a case study on how Target could make their site 3 seconds faster, but Target will likely never get their site fully loaded in 2 seconds.

However, what Target (and other major e-commerce sites) does incredibly well is making sure that their user perceives everything very quickly. The site is interactive almost immediately. Then it loads a bunch of other files (Javascript, CSS, etc) in the background or on-demand.

The point is that we can learn an incredible amount by copying what major companies are doing with their sites. Because it’s obviously working!

Keep It Simple

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

“Well of course these sites load quickly, there’s nothing there!”

You (probably)

However, that’s very important to keep in mind when building a website.

Too many times we get caught up in adding animations, custom fonts, and other frivolous customizations. Ask yourself, Does this add any value to the visitors of my site? These often add a lot of time to the loading process and don’t add value of any kind.

Look again at the websites above. You’ll see that each one of them places complete emphasis on displaying the information that the user needs in an easy-to-use format.

Obviously, you don’t need to make your website look like it’s from 2005. Instead, consistently focus on what your users are there to see. Is it information, a product, or extra frills?

Reduce & Optimize Your Images

We seem to link our article on image optimization more than any other one we’ve written. This is because when we’re striving for a 2-second website, it’s easily the most important thing to consider.

Looking again at the websites above, you’ll see that Google uses one image (their logo), Craigslist uses 0(!), and Wikipedia is the only one with more than one.

This step is in lock-step with creating a simple website. Modern design often calls for large “hero” images, video backgrounds, and gifs, all of which are large taxes on bandwidth.

Maybe the best lesson can be learned from Wikipedia, which has a few more images on their homepage than the others.

  • Use images sparingly
  • Keep images small
  • Use next-gen image formats (Wiki uses WebP)

If you’re running an e-commerce site, your images add value. This means you certainly can’t go the text-only route that Craigslist does. However, you can follow all of the tips above to ensure that your images have a minimal impact on your site speed. This will also have a positive impact on your revenue!

Continue The Classics

Outside of the simplicity of each of these sites, they’re not doing anything else radical to ensure site speed.

When each one is run through our speed test at MachMetrics or the engine we use at WebPageTest.org, you’ll see each site receive an ‘A’ rating pretty much across the board.

Speed test letter grades for a 2-second website

Each one has an impressive Time to First Byte, which you can achieve by selecting a fast and reputable hosting provider.

All 3 sites get checkmarks in the ‘Use of a CDN’ category as well. Using a CDN like Cloudflare is a great way to cache your static assets and serve them to your users via the shortest path possible. They even have an awesome new service for WordPress users – Automatic Platform Optimization.

The takeaway here is that these 3 companies know how valuable it is to have a blazing fast site. They have stripped down their sites to achieve that. But more importantly, they’ve also taken the important (but often overlooked) basic steps to make sure that their site is as fast as possible.

Achieving the 2-Second Website

There is incredible value to be found by looking at the most visited websites in the world and dissecting how they do things. It’s no accident that these are also some of the fasted loading sites in the world!

Not every website will be able to create such a simplistic website, but the design mindset is perhaps the most fascinating thing to be found here.

As you’re creating your website, ask yourself questions:

  • Do I need this hero image here? Or does that make my page load slower and push key information further down the page?
  • Do I need this many images on my site?
  • Are my key images for products or services well optimized and properly sized?
  • Is this custom font key to my brand, or is it unnecessary?
  • Am I using a reputable hosting service, Gzip or Brotley compression, and a CDN?

If you’re implementing all of these site speed measures, you’ll be way ahead of the curve. Even if you’re not able to achieve your own 2-second website, these will likely ensure that your users perceive your site as loaded and interactive under 2 seconds, even if additional functionality is being loaded in the background while they browse your site. Your users will be more than happy with those results, and you’ll be thrilled with the numbers as well.

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