Lightening The Load

If there is one thing that seems to have happened over the last 15 years, it’s the growth of ADD.  That’s right – it seems as if most of us have some sort of Attention Deficit Disorder which manifests itself via an inability to stay focused and patient as we use our devices.  After all, what’s more frustrating than clicking on a link and waiting and waiting and waiting for the page to load?  Sometimes it’s due to a lousy connection to the internet.  Most of the time, however, it’s probably due to how the publisher has built the page.  I can hear you muttering that “he’s gone all wonky today” but stay with me.  There is a broader business lesson here.

Web pages are a series of elements.  The page code processes them and does everything from display pictures to send analytics data to a server  to format text to pull ads out of a marketplace.  Each of these things takes a little time and the more of them there are, the longer it takes the page to load.  Graphics intensive content – slide shows, autoplay videos, etc. – take a VERY long time to get ready.  I think part of why people use ad blockers is because they very often cut load times substantially.

GQ, according to an article I read in Digiday, focused on decreasing page load times.   Maybe that was less convenient for their writers or editors, but they decluttered their article pages, moved to a unified content management system, and did some other things that resulted in an 80% decrease in page load times.  That focus on their reader has paid off:

For GQ, having a faster site, along with features like new article pages and article recommendation widgets, has paid off in helping audience growth. Traffic jumped to 11 million uniques in July, the first full month of the relaunch, from 6 million in June, per the site. (Those are the site’s internal Omniture figures; comScore’s July numbers weren’t available at press time). Median time spent on the site rose to 7.8 minutes in July, from 5.9 in June. The benefits have extended to advertisers. With people spending more time on the site, along with bigger and repositioned ad units, the interaction rate on ads rose 108 percent.

The lesson for any of us is that staying focused on the customer experience pays off, sometimes in ways we don’t anticipate (who would have thought ad interaction would rise!).  Maybe lightening the load made their wallets heavier. Not a bad tradeoff, right?

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