Technology

Travel websites seven times slower than recommended

Posted by Ben Ireland on
Travel websites seven times slower than recommended

Some UK travel websites may be seven times slower than recommended causing customers to look elsewhere, according to analysis by a website performance firm.

The NCC Group looked at the speed of 20 UK travel websites and found an average load time of 20.94 seconds, almost 18 seconds slower than the three seconds recommended.

It said many were also late to start displaying content, with pages appearing three times slower than the recommended one second – and suggested that may lead to the loss of customers as “slow load and display times correlate with high drop-off rates”.

One reason for the slow load times was that many travel websites rely heavily on single-page apps (SPAs), which use large volumes of JavaScript to allow the page to be dynamically updated as the user interacts with it, NCC Group said, which added that this type of website may have to load and process several large JavaScript files before anything can be displayed, slowing load times – particularly on mobiles.

Alex Painter, senior web performance consultant at NCC Group, said: “Travel websites often have to deliver a great deal of functionality from the outset in order to meet their customer’s expectations, such as the ability to check prices and make bookings on the home page. It isn’t a surprise, therefore, that the sector regularly uses SPAs to deliver this functionality.

“However, some SPAs are faster than others. For example, there are ways of reducing the work that has to be done by the end user’s device, enabling pages to appear much faster. And even if there is a delay in delivering key functionality, it’s a good idea to show at least some content early. This helps to reassure visitors that they are in the right place and that the site will respond.”

The research also found that the sector uses a large amount of third-party content, and while this does not tend to load until after first-party content, it can interfere with how the page displays, or result in a jerky, unresponsive user interface.

Only “a small number” of the travel websites analysed performed well during the tests and showed evidence of optimisation for speed, suggesting that these providers are aware of the importance of a fast-loading website for customer conversion and retention.

Painter added: “While it’s clear some travel website providers understand the need for speed, most have a very long way to go. The first step to improving this is to assess the impact of speed by measuring load times and their effect on key metrics, such as conversion. Real user monitoring services that look at the correlation between site speed and visitor behaviour can help with this. Understanding this relationship can help to prioritise page speed.

“Developers don’t set out to build slow websites, but they may be under pressure to deliver new content and features quickly. Optimising for speed can fall by the wayside if the business doesn’t make it clear that slow load times have a measurable impact on the bottom line.”

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