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Christmas is coming, websites are getting fat

Christmas is coming, websites are getting fat
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Christmas is coming

The nights are drawing in, it’s a degree or two colder and I’ve seen mince pies for sale in my local supermarket. This can only mean one thing, the UK’s retailers are getting ready for Christmas. “Black Friday” and “Mega Monday” shopping events are just around the corner and this year many more shoppers are likely to buy online, rather than trudging round traditional bricks-and-mortar stores.

Is my website slower?

With Christmas on the way it is more important than ever for retailers to make sure that their website can handle this anticipated additional load and still perform within customer’s expectations. Many retailers don’t test their sites properly or optimise web content for scalability or the demands of increasingly mobile users.

To find out whether UK retailers websites were following the global trend, I used our in house monitoring tool to check the performance of over 200 UK retailer’s landing pages over a six-month period.

I found that the average page size is increasing. My observations showed an 11% increase from 2.00 to 2.22MB since April 2014.

I also found that the average requests per page (i.e. the number of components that make up a page) was also increasing. Again I saw an increase of 11%, there were an average of 100 components in April against an average of 111 components now. 

Despite the increases in page size and complexity, response times have improved slightly this month, reversing the trend seen in May/June. This seems to be primarily due to small number of websites that have seen significant performance improvements in recent months. Seven websites: TescoMobile, Ernest Jones, Monsoon, Schuh, Reiss, Bennetts and J.Crew all improved their page response times by 5 seconds or more measured from our Manchester data centre.

Why are (most) websites getting slower? 

Despite the increase in available bandwidth for average consumer Internet connections, the main reasons for the increase in response time are increased page complexity and page size.

Average web page sizes have been increasing dramatically for many years. The average page size for the top 1000 web sites in the world is now more than 1.6MB and as a result, page response times are getting slower. For example, Radware’s analysis from July 2014 showed that median response time for website page loads has increased from 7.2 to 10.7 seconds in the preceding 12 months.

Against these stats, UK retail sites don’t look too bad, but it is important not to be complacent.

How does a slow website affect retailers?

Tests at Amazon revealed that every 100 ms increase in load time of decreased sales by 1% (Kohavi and Longbotham 2007), so it’s critically important to test your site’s performance and scalability now allowing you to take remedial action before poor web performance leads to poor retail sales.

What should I do?

If you’re a retailer expecting a peak in traffic, you need to start planning for the increased demand and taking the necessary steps to protect your business. You may think it’s too late to start now and be planning to cross your fingers and do this next year, but can you really afford the risk to your business of poor website performance?

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