News

Slow loading websites – how do they harm business growth?

27th February 2024

Need for speed VIII – the importance of digital performance

Disclaimer: this blog is in no way affiliated with, or making reference to the film franchise of the same name. Any similarities are purely coincidental (and highly unlikely).

Confused by giga-whatsits and tetra-terra-RAMs? Lights go dim when you’re in earshot of someone talking about metrics and benchmarks? Then you, dear reader, are who I’m writing this for. If you also happen to be marketing adjacent in your role, then you, dear prospect are definitely who I’m writing this for.

I don’t want to brag, but this blog provides easily consumable, highly understandable insight into the importance of speeding up your digital performance. So great is this insight that it has its own acronym: F.A.S.T.

View image in blog here.

Fast websites – why so important?

This is quite simple really. So simple, in fact, that it can be bullet pointed:

Get people to your site
  • Organically – Search engines adjust your rank based on your site performance.
  • Where they are – Mobile performance – if it crawls on a device, that ain’t nice.
Give them what they want (and encourage them to do what you want)
  • You have 15 seconds to hook a website visitor, so speedy first impressions count.
  • Performance is a base-level requirement for a good user experience.
Boost ROI
  • Performance directly impacts conversion.
  • Performance can reduce operating and infrastructure costs.
  • Prevent brand damage.

You can Google (or ChatGPT) these things until you’re blue in the face, and you’ll likely find hundreds of books on these topics. So, to save reinventing the wheel, I’m going to explore three areas that can contribute to your digital speed and agility.

Automation

Those of you paying attention will notice that I’ve used automation for the title of this section, not AI. Why have I done this? Is AI not the fire that draws the marketing moths nearer? The AI magic silver bullet that makes everything better, faster, stronger?

The truth is, AI is used far too broadly and often incorrectly, so I’d like to try not to spread any more misinformation.

With that in mind, let’s define our terms:

  • Artificial Intelligence: a computer system built or constructed using machine learning techniques
  • Automation: the practice of reducing manual effort by means of computer-enabled activities.

Let’s use a couple examples and explain why the two are often confused.

Example 1:

Writing a piece of content, running it through a translation service, assigning a status of ‘needs review’ and sending an email to a staff member to prompt the need for proofreading or fact checking.

This is an automation.

Example 2:

Writing a piece of content, running it through a translation service, assigning a status of ‘needs review’ and sending an email to a staff member to prompt the need for proofreading or fact checking.

This is AI… and also automation.

They’re the same, right? Yes and no. In our example it entirely depends on how the translation service has been created. If that service has been written as a complex system for converting one language to another, it’s not AI. However, if that system has been trained to translate using vast multi-lingual datasets and machine learning techniques, it is AI.

So, let’s apply the lens of performance. Given the two above examples what is the driver for increased performance? Automation, not AI.

To increase the performance of your digital processes, look at which manual activities can be automated. What can you connect to what and allow ‘the system’ to take over.

How do we do this? This is actually computing. It’s what software and hardware engineers have been doing since Babbage built his difference engine – we’re taking an input, applying certain rules or changes to it, and manufacturing an output. In software engineering this is done in code. The real revolution we’re currently experiencing lies in the way these powers have been put in the hands of ‘we, the people’. APIs have become commonplace. Tools like ZapierMake, and others have created capabilities to connect the APIs of the largest and most common services.

In the not-so-distant past, if you wanted to automate a process using computers, you’d need to have a team of developers. Today, you just need an idea and a set of off-the-shelf tools.

The automation of systems and processes has become democratised. If you’re not automating your processes, you should be. Others are, and they’ll be moving faster than you.

Speedy content creation

You can’t rush the creative process. I wouldn’t dare suggest you can. My partner and the mother of my children happens to be ‘a creative’ and it’s more than my life is worth to sully the craft with such a cold, clinical word as ‘performance.’

But what I am suggesting you can do is grease the wheels a little – remove the friction. Essentially, you want to cut out the middlemen – the great unwashed tech folk that often serve as content gatekeepers in processes that time forgot (I can make that joke, because I am / was a developer. I promise I did wash… occasionally.)

Back in the day – ‘the day’ being just a quick hop back to the year 2017 – it wasn’t uncommon to need to make a clear and distinct choice when considering content creation capabilities on your website.

The predominant choices? The tried and tested form-based CMS, equipping droves of content editors with the power to put text into little boxes. Or a protracted, high-design process: content that made its way to the web via many a designer, developer and tester.

BUT, creating and publishing content on a website has undergone substantial change over the past 5 years. We are officially living in the future. The content editor experience is now more important than ever. Fast-paced marketing, ever-decreasing attention spans and increased marketing agility require the modern content editor to act quickly and assuredly. This need has been a call to action for editor tooling, and we’re firmly living in the age of low-code / no-code editor experiences.

  • Buzzword alert: Low-code / no-code refers to software that’s built to remove or minimise the need for developer input. It often uses drag-and-drop interfaces or simple component-by-component building tools to make website or app design more accessible.

Now, given the aforementioned rate of change and the average lifespan of a website, it’s quite possible you’re still experiencing this clunky mechanic. You might feel a world away from the nirvana of which I speak. On the contrary – you’re likely best placed to take advantage of this brave new world. And it’s about time you underwent that website refresh you’ve been dreaming of.

Allow me, if you will, to paint you a picture of the awe-inspiring world of frictionless content publishing.

Using these tools, your content editors can log into your CMS, choose from a collection of branded, pre-built, design-approved patterns. They’ll drag them into a page that’s ready to be populated with content, preview the fruits of their labour in real-time, easily change layouts, nest components. The result is an entirely unique page or website, confidently consistent with your brand.

Why is this better? It empowers your team, unlocks creativity, removes developer requirement, reduces the concern of brand variance and inconsistency, and eliminates human error and duplication of efforts. In short, it shifts left and speeds up the entire content creation process.

Sounds good, right?

But I do have one word of warning. Not all that glitters is gold – some modern architecture patterns could easily land you in hot water. If you’re looking for that website refresh, do find a partner that will create the right product for you, not for them.

T’edge computing

Alright, it’s just ‘edge computing’ – you’ll have to forgive the acronymic crowbarring.

I fear by this point I might be losing you dear reader. I’m sure you’re tiring of my pithy rambling, so I’ll take a cue from edge computing and move my point closer to you.

Edge computing is the practice of utilising geographically optimal server locations to reduce data travel distance.

Edge computing can provision your databases, your web servers and your code closer to the customer. Picture a user in China purchasing a product from Apple. They open a browser and visit Apple.com. That request, in a non-edge world, would likely travel halfway across the world and land on a server. The server then needs to send response data back across the globe via cables running under large bodies of water. This takes time. When you add in compute time back at the server this compounds. When you add in data size this compounds further.

Milliseconds can turn into seconds, forcing users to wait, which hurts your SEO performance, impacts conversion and damages your brand.

All this in just a few seconds.

Well, what if I told you that your data need not travel at all.

Edge computing also tends to include the use of a content distribution network (CDN). This handy practice can cache major parts of your website to, in some cases, completely invalidate the need to visit your servers at all – no travel, no computing, no wait (well, very little wait).

  • Buzzword alert:
    Cache, in this context, means digital file storage with the purpose of removing the need to re-load or re-transfer data.

Companies that provide CDN capability can have copies of your website as close to your customers or users as physically possible ready to fire your website into their eyeballs at break-neck speeds. They also add a whole bunch of security advantages, but that’s a topic for another time.

We live in a global world. Unless you’re geo-locking your website, you can have visitors from anywhere. Is their money worth any less than Brenda from Bromley’s?

Key takeaways:

  • Your website needs to be performant. If it isn’t, it needs fixing – it’s hurting your business.
  • Evaluate your processes – look for potential automations to speed up your world.
  • If speed of publishing is important to you, invest in better editor tooling.
  • If you’re looking for a website refresh, don’t accept a lesser content editor experience.
  • Get to the edge (computing), your users will thank you.
  • Come and talk to Proctor + Stevenson, we know some things that might be useful.

If you would like to discuss your website with one of our experts, or have any questions surrounding this blog, please don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected].

Member

About Proctor + Stevenson

Game-changing strategy, creative and technology that means more impact for your marketing. And more power to your business.

Related articles

A sign of the times – why PR changes so frequently

A sign of the times – why PR changes so frequently

LAUNCHING ADLIB’S EDI DIRECTORY

LAUNCHING ADLIB’S EDI DIRECTORY

Paws for thought: Final call for artists to join Gromit Unleashed 2025!

Paws for thought: Final call for artists to join Gromit Unleashed 2025!