When you set out to have your new website built you were smart about it. You did your research and learned about how to build a killer site and you followed all of the recommendations to the letter.
You set your goals right from the start and they were both aggressive and achievable. You also made them specific. It wasn’t just some pie in the sky dream you were building toward. And, you planned both for the long and short terms.
You learned what you needed to know about promoting your new site and marketing your products and services. You understood how difficult it would be to attract people to your new site so you made sure SEO, SEM and SMM plans were well defined and then you executed those plans exactly as they were intended.
You had your site built on a proper CMS platform so it could be easily managed and you made sure it would work well on both desktop and mobile platforms. You saw the trends in mobile shopping and made sure you had that base well covered.
You took the time to study your competition and learn as much as possible about what they were doing well and then you were not shy about appropriating their best practices for your site. If imitation was in fact the most sincere form of flattery you were going to flatter unashamedly.
You knew how important is was going to be to have some really great content that would both grab attention and drive people to make a buying decision so you invested in writing, video presentations and animations. It was all carefully developed to help get eyeballs fixed on your offer and get fingers clicking through to purchase.
You also heeded the advice on where and how often to place your calls to action. Your entire site was designed to make it easy for a visitor to convert and become a customer. They would never have to go searching to find a way to act on a buying decision.
Finally, you found a web designer you trusted to pull all of this together to create a fabulous finished product – a website that would deliver on its promise.
That’s where it all went terribly wrong
Finding a website developer is easy. In fact, you probably have a cousin or a friend or even a friend of a friend that folks will tell you builds great websites. You may have even tried your hand at building sites you thought were pretty good.
For this site though you were rightfully dubious about hiring anyone that wasn’t a true professional. Your plans to build a thriving web based business deserved at least that. So, you went to the internet and began searching for web developers and despite the huge number of sites returned by your searches you took the time to dig deep to find the right resources.
The problem though is a fairly obvious one. You are not a website developer so assessing the skills of website developers is most likely beyond your pay grade. You can certainly look at the sites each developer claims to have created but digging under the covers to see how well they were built is once again, beyond your pay grade. You are a pretty good judge of character though and you’ve successfully hired skilled resources before even when you didn’t fully understand how they did the job so you reasonably expected your choice of a web developer would work out A-Ok.
So, what went wrong? Why is your new site failing?
The answer is simple and occurs far more often than you’d imagine. Your web developer is a coder when what you really needed was a software engineer and the result is, your great looking site is slower than molasses flowing uphill in the dead of winter.
In today’s fast paced world that seems ever more fixated on instant gratification, slow is deadly and that’s why all your efforts to draw traffic to your site is resulting in zero sales.
People are naturally impatient and there are clear statistics to support this claim. Consider the following Graph:
When your site begins to load your abandon rate begins to climb. For the first 4 seconds that climb is steep and very costly. In fact, after just a few seconds you’ve lost nearly 25% of your visitors to impatience. That’s an incredible number and it only get worse. By 5 seconds you’ve lost half of your audience and it’s all because you failed to put your message in front of them fast enough.
Most people are a bit more forgiving on mobile devices as they expect their phone to respond a bit slower but you don’t have much more leeway there either. You’ll have about an additional second of tolerance on these devices and that is unlikely to make much of a difference to the bottom line performance.
If your pages don’t load in under 2 seconds on a desktop it is unlikely to load in under 3 seconds on a mobile device.
To check whether speed is an issue with your site you should be using Google Analytics. It is a free service and offers a wealth of information about exactly how your site is performing, both positively and negatively. Have a look at the following example:
This is a site with a very clear speed problem. Just look at the Avg. Session Duration. It stands at less than 1 second and the Bounce Rate (abandons), stands at more than 85%. That is a truly dismal performance and indicates a real need for enhancement.
When reviewing your site statistics you would like to see an average duration of at least a few minutes and a bounce rate that is well under 50% but we are looking for speed issues and for that you are looking for an Avg. Session Duration that is under 5 seconds. As you saw in the previous graph, you will have lost half your audience at this rate.
How can you avoid this pitfall?
First, try using these tools as you assess the quality of the work your web development candidates are presenting as part of their portfolio.
Step 1 – Start by testing the load time of the sites you are reviewing by using any or all of the following tools:
Google Page Speed Analysis – https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ – Start with this one. It will deliver a color coded score, red being poor and green being excellent, that quickly tells you what Google thinks of the load time. They also provide this score for both desktop and mobile performance. If they don’t like it your visitors probably won’t either. If you have a problem site this is also a great tool since it provides specific advice on how to improve performance.
Pingdom – http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/ – Enter the website address and it will come back with a rating. If the amalgamated score is under 65 the site you’re reviewing is to slow.
GTMetrix – http://gtmetrix.com/ – Again, put the website address into the box provided and let it run. If it returns a score of less than a B the site is too slow.
Step 2 – If the site passes the speed test you should also test the quality of the code the developer is creating.
Use the following site:
W3C Validator – https://validator.w3.org/ – The results will be a bit hard to interpret since this tool gets very technical but don’t worry about that. Just look at the Error count and if it’s more than a handful the site is not as clean as it should be and not as clean as you will want it to be.
If the site comes up clean you have a developer that is worth investing in. If the sites they are proud of do not come out clean then you ought to look elsewhere or you risk serious disappointment.
Finally, if you do have a problem site not all is lost and there is a very good chance you do not need to start from scratch. There are good website engineers that specialize in correcting performance issues and they will cost you far less than starting all over again. Use the same process for selecting the best person to get the job done and let them help you recover lost opportunities.
PS: www.e-storebuilder.com is our own site and is intentionally developed to demonstrate these very real problems. It is our test bed for developing strategies for improving performance and for assessing the quality of the most popular premade website templates on the market today. In future articles we will share our findings and solutions so you can get the job done right without any of the typical headaches. You’ll also be able to compare detailed before and after results.
Glen Giuffre is a marketer with 30+ years building businesses both in the real and virtual worlds. He founded World Touch Marketing and provides a leading e-commerce solution throughwww.e-storebuilder.com. Visit to learn more about him and what the group can do for you.