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Zoompf's Web Performance Blog

Top Alexa Sites Averaging 9.5 Seconds Page Load Time

 Mark Isham on May 2, 2013. Category: Alexa Research
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In our recent post, 5 common Causes of Slow Website Performance, we talked through some common performance optimization gaps that appeared in our recent analysis of the Alexa Top 1000 websites. Since so much interesting data came back from that exercise, we wanted to followup with some additional insights about the raw page load times themselves. As you can probably guess, the “news ain’t great”.

 

Onramp

First the disclaimers: Page load time is more art than science. While we were careful with our methodology (described below) you should think of it as a rough survey of the landscape. Essentially what we did is set up a private WebPageTest server on a “Small” class Amazon EC2 Instance running in the US-East/Northern Virgina region. Originally we utilized several “Micro” instances, but the resulting page load times were highly variable. We then scanned the Alexa Top 10,000 websites (not a typo, we did 10k for this analysis vs 1k for the prior post) in a serial manner, capturing the median “Document Complete” time (when onload fires, e.g. when user can start interacting with the page) of 3 runs. Each run was a “first load” scenario, meaning client side caching was cleared prior to each load. Chrome was the browser used. No other load was running on the server.

Acknowledged limitations: scans were run day and night, so this does not account for differences in peak vs. off peak times. Additionally, all tests were from just one region (Northern Virginia), so geographic proximity was a factor. (although good use of CDNs can offset much of this).

So the results? Well, as we already spoiled in the title, the median page load time for the Alexa Top 10k came in at 9.5 seconds. You can see a full distribution in the following graph:

Alexa_Average_Time_April_2013

This is (unfortunately) inline with our expectations from our own prior research as well as other industry research citing averages in the 6-9 second range under diverse testing scenarios. Steve Souders from Google also posted research recent from the HTML5 Developer Conference showing page weights growing 24% y/y, which would indirectly corroborate expectations of slower observed times.

User experience expectations are for page loads of 2 seconds or less. Clearly these numbers show we still have our work cut out for us.

But it’s not all bad news. We found 243 sites with sub-second page load times, and a full 544 loading in 2 seconds or less.  Some noteworthy “honor roll” mentions of some well known brands:

Nice work guys!

Of course there is also a “wall of shame” on the flip side, but we won’t pick on anyone specific here. Instead we’ll just highlight of the top 10k sites, a full 1295 sites (13%) were loading in OVER 20 SECONDS. For these sites you are leaving REAL MONEY on the table through lost conversions, abandoned carts and poor user experience. You should consider performance optimization a TOP priority for your business.

If you want to see how your site stacks up, we highly recommend trying out the free WebPageTest tool. WPT does a great job showing you how your website is loading. If you’d like to know what specific performance problems you have which are making that website slow, try our free Zoompf Performance Scan at http://zoompf.com/free. Zoompf tests your website for over 400 performance issues.

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