One: Your Brand
Your promise lived out. In this case, your promise is being lived out on a website. What is your promise? If you don’t have one, then stop everything and work on that aspect. For your business and brand, strategy is the most important thing you need to nail down. A strategy will contain your promise, values, identifying your audience, and much more. Your brand strategy will be the Northstar and help you connect on a deeper level with your audience. A strategy will help you know what paths you need to take to bring your business and brand to life.
I don’t believe our audiences want fast sites. I believe they want authentic connections and not just HTTPS. Authenticity and connection are the bedrock of your branding. No one in your audience is sitting there with a stopwatch going: “Well, it’s been 3.4 seconds, and the site has not fully loaded, I am out!” - and if they are, then that is not who you want your audience to be. That’s petty.
Context is another aspect of your brand connected to how people are coming to your website. Where are they coming from? A Facebook ad for a product they want? A business card? A proposal? A phone call? Context has an enormous impact on your audience. They will be patient with a possibly slow site. If they want what you are offering, they will wait.
With your website, you will also have fun brand opportunities to work with. Have a slow site but no available resources to fix it? Use a loading screen and play with your logo or words to add to the UX of the website. The web is your canvas, and there are no rules. The only rule you should be operating with is: Whatever communicates my brand and connects with my audience the best. Also: Whatever is the most authentic self on my website.
You nail this brand thing, and your audience will give no fucks about your load time.
Two: Your Content
Have you ever met someone who decides to word vomit and give you a dissertation on their day with no meat and all fluff? I haven’t in real life, but I have met that person on their website countless times. It’s painful, and I usually leave right away. I don’t care how fast your website loads; if the content is shit, then the whole experience is shit.
I get what happens. Fear. You might be frightened your audience is not getting what you are selling, so you say even more and provide a messy, empty experience that usually drives peeps away. You puff the fluff. It’s time to take a step back. Look at the world-class brands in your industry. They say a lot less, don’t they? But, they maximize on the less they say and get you juiced on what they offer. Eliminate the fluff. Every word counts.
Here are a couple of strategies I have seen work well if you have a lot to say:
- On your homepage, give small and easily digestible content blocks and then provide a link to an in-depth article about that subject.
- Play a game with yourself. Go ahead and word vomit. Then, take a step back and read what you wrote. Start trimming the fat. See if you can take a five-sentence block and distill it into one sentence. Challenge yourself to think succinctly. How can I say the least, with the most impact?
Crafting compelling content that accomplishes your brand promise, educates, and inspires is hard. Like anything good, it takes time and resources. You CAN do it and do it well. Take any time you might have spent optimizing your speed; use it towards content refinement and creation.
Forget about speed until you have nailed your content.
UI stands for the user interface. It’s the visual design of your website. UX is user experience. It is the experience a user has while on your website. UX also pertains to how your website works. These elements are linked to your brand and more influential to your audience buying your product or engaging with you than page speed is. Page speed may get a user to see your content faster, but if the design and experience is shit, BYEEE! If your website is slow, but your design and experience are on point, HELLO!
If you were to look at any world-class company, you would see their design and experience are on point. Not every world-class company has an experience or design that you vibe with. Still, there is a level of sophistication and refinement that helps communicate their promise and create connection. Connection wins the day, every day.
A lot of thought, time, and effort goes into implementing a top-notch design and experience. The dividends are way worth it and outweigh any benefits that a fast page load time will ever yield.
As a side note, I would like to address the unintended dualism present in this post. A fast-loading website is fantastic and should be a goal to have. This post is meant to rank fast load times much lower on your hierarchy of importance. Way lower. I have seen many website owners sacrifice the above elements in the pursuit of page speed. They end up with mediocre, boring websites that do nothing for their brand but hurt it. I don’t want that for you.
Are we doing page speed assessment wrong?
I had a great conversation with Matt, the owner of Site District (where we host our client websites), and he was taking me to school on how synthetic web speed testers (Pingdom, GTmetric, etc.) are not the best way to assess your load times. The assessment of your load times has an incredible amount of complexity and nuance to them. If all you are doing is going to Pingdom, putting in your URL, and using those metrics as an assessment of your load time, then you are doing it wrong. They are not accurate.
Another point he was taking me to school on is that if you are not willing to put in the significant amount of time it takes to understand page load times, then you shouldn’t be concerned with those load times.
Here is an article on how to read a web page test - it’s like 400 pages long. That is the point- it takes a lot to understand a web speed score accurately. If you have that mind then you should take it seriously, but I don’t think page speed is what will give you the most success.