Site Response Time

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The speed at which individuals connect to the Internet has increased significantly since the World Wide Web became popular in public circles. Early on, when the processing and dial-up modem speeds of computers were relatively slow, it was accepted that most tasksincluding the time required to access a Web sitewould take a certain amount of time, especially if the site included a large number of graphic elements. As faster technology came onto the scene and e-commerce and Internet adoption evolved, users were less tolerant of slow Web site response times. If pages took more than eight seconds to download, chances were good that users would direct their browsers elsewhere. Although the average site response time was approximately 17 seconds in mid-2001, this "eight-second rule" was something of a standard for Internet marketers, for whom such lost visitors represented lost revenue.

Web site response times can be affected by a number of different factors. A leading factor is the performance of the servers on which sites reside and operate. When a user attempts to download a site, that user's Web browser (software applications like Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator which are used for viewing Web pages) requests the site from the server, on which there may be several different sites. The server must acknowledge this request and then serve up the requested Web page. In the early 2000s, there were different software tools hosts could use to monitor the performance of their servers and Web sites, as well as applications that improved site response times in different ways. Other such factors include the amount of traffic on the Internet at any given time, as well as issues involving Internet service providers, which provide many individual consumer and business users with access to the Internet's backbone. The heavy use of graphics and multimedia elements also played a role in the download speed of many Web sites.

The economic impact of poor Web site response times is very real. Zona Research issued a report 1999 that placed lost U.S. e-commerce sales due to "user bailout behaviors" and unacceptable download speeds in the vicinity of $4.35 billion. In mid-2001, using information from Keynote Systems, Zona issued additional figures that placed the cost of slow-loading Web sites at $25 billion, indicating that bad connections caused the abandonment of up to half of all online transactions. The report also revealed that poor site response times were common to modem users and those with high-speed access. According to Zona, heavy use of graphic elements was causing many consumer Web site download times to increase as much as 20 percent.


"Computer User: Slow Sites Costing Online Retailers." Nua Internet Surveys, May 8, 2001. Available from

"The Economic Impacts of Unacceptable Web Site Download Speeds." Zona Research Inc., 1999. Available from

"Increasing Web Site Profits With Improved Response Time." Trio Networks, August 7, 2001. Trio Networks. Available from

SEE ALSO: Web Site Usability Issues