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Maintaining a decent website speed while also plugging in all the necessary analytics, adverts and product promotions is no mean feat.

And losing even a few seconds on your load time can have an adverse impact on usability, conversions and SEO.

In fact, stats included in our recent post on how to improve site speed show that the average consumer expects sites to load in two seconds, and slow loading websites could cost retailers as much as £1.73bn in lost sales each year.

But help is at hand. Google has a free PageSpeed Insights tool that anyone can use to measure the load time of a particular website.

A score is given out of 100 with the lower the score meaning the more room there is for improvement. It also analyses the content and gives tips and advice on what can be done to make that page faster. 

Using this tool I thought it would be interesting to see what Google thinks of the homepage and a product page for each of the top 10 UK retailers.

Here are the results...

Amazon

Homepage

Amazon’s homepage score is 90 out of 100 and Google didn’t flag up a single high priority suggestion.

There were several medium priority suggestions though, including minimizing redirects, combining images into CSS sprites, serving resources from a consistent URL and optimising images.

Product page

Despite being littered with more product information, promotions, cross sells and consumer reviews than you could ever hope to read, Amazon’s Kindle e-reader product page achieved a score of 91. 

However it did come up with two high priority suggestions: serve resources from a consistent URL and combine images into CSS sprites.

Argos

Homepage

Argos’ homepage scored a relatively low 78 out of 100, which it might need to improve if it wants to become a ‘digital first’ retailer.

Google’s high priority recommendation was that Argos should leverage browser caching, while medium priority was to combine images into CSS sprites and defer arsing of JavaScript.

Product page

Argos’ product page for an Amazon Kindle e-reader scored just 59 with a number of high priority suggestions.

To speed things up it needs to leverage browser caching, optimise images, combine images into CSS sprites and serve resources from a consistent URL. 

Apple

Homepage

Apple’s homepage achieved a score of just 62, which is one of the lowest on this list. This is probably partly attributable to the large, hi-res iPad images that appear.

The high priority suggestions were to serve scaled images and leverage browser caching.

Product page

The iPad 2 product page scored a more respectable 76 out of 100, with the high priority suggestions being to leverage browser caching and combine images into CSS sprites.

As a medium priority Google suggested that Apple should defer parsing of JavaScript and enable compression.

Tesco

Homepage

Tesco’s homepage scored a rather rapid 95 out of 100, which is probably partly due to the fact that it has a limited number of product images.

There were no medium or high priority suggestions, so bravo to Tesco.

Product page

The Kindle e-reader page scored 79 and had a number of high priority suggestions: optimize images, leverage browser caching, serve resources from a consistent URL and combine images into CSS sprites.

As a medium priority Google suggests that Tesco should defer parsing of JavaScript.

Next

Homepage

Next scored a rather slow 23 and has a lot of points that it needs to work on according to Google. But while this score is much lower than the other brands, it didn't seem noticably slower to load than Amazon.

High priority suggestions include enabling compression, leverage browser caching, combining images into CSS sprites and minifying JavaScript.

As a medium priority Next should serve resources from a consistent URL, inline small JavaScript, optimise images and minify HTML.

Product page

Next’s product pages are even slower, scoring just 22. This is despite the fact that the page design is fairly sparse. 

Unsurprisingly Google has a number of suggestions for improvement, including enabling compression, leveraging browser caching, combining images into CSS sprites and minifying JavaScript.

Play.com

Homepage

Play scored a respectable 84 out of 100 despite the fact that it has a large homepage with a number of images.

Even so, Google had several high priority suggestions: minimise redirects, combine images into CSS sprites, optimise images and leverage browser caching. The only medium priority suggestion was to defer parsing of JavaScript.

Product page

The product page for The Lion King DVD scored 85, which is good compared to many of the other pages on this list.

It has three high priority suggestions, including minimizing redirects, combining images into CSS sprites and leveraging browser caching.

Your M&S

Homepage

M&S’s homepage scored 81 with high priority recommendations for leveraging browser caching, combining images into CSS sprites and minimizing redirects.

As a medium priority Google recommends deferring parsing of JavaScript and enabling compression.

Product page

M&S achieves a respectable 81 out of 100 for its product page, but Google highlights several high priority issues.

These include combining images into CSS sprites, leveraging browser caching, minimizing redirects, serving resources from a consistent URL and deferring parsing of JavaScript.

But on the plus side there are no medium priority recommendations.

John Lewis

Homepage

John Lewis scored a not-too-shabby 81, but again there are a number of high priority recommendations.

According to Google, John Lewis needs to combine images into CSS sprites, leverage browser caching, minimize redirects, serve resources from a consistent URL and defer parsing of JavaScript.

Product Page

The Armani Jeans product page achieved a score of 76, and there were a number of familiar recommendations from Google.

As a high priority John Lewis needs to leverage browser caching, combine images into CSS sprites, specify a cache validator, enable compression and serve resources from a consistent URL.

Medium priority recommendations are to defer parsing of JavaScript and minimize redirects.

ASOS

Homepage

ASOS automatically redirected me to the asos.com/men domain as I was logged into the site, but even then it still had a site speed score of 79.

Google recommends that as a high priority it needs to leverage browser caching and combine images into CSS sprites, while the medium priorities are to minimize redirects and defer parsing of JavaScript.

Product page

ASOS’s product page is actually a lot quicker than the homepage according to Google’s tool.

It scored 87 out of 100, with high priority suggestions to leverage browser caching, and medium priority tips to combine images into CSS sprites, defer parsing of JavaScript, minimize redirects and serve resources from a consistent URL.

Debenhams

Homepage

The homepage scored 81 and there were no medium priority recommendations, however as a high priority it needs to leverage browser caching, combine images into CSS sprites and minimize redirects.

Product page

If you happen to be browsing for a pair of navy worsted trousers, then the product page you land on has a score of 73.

Google also had a number of high priority recommendations; leverage browser caching, combine images into CSS sprites, minimize redirects, serve resources from a consistent URL and enable compression. 

Medium priorities are to minify JavaScript and defer parsing of JavaScript.

Conclusion

Overall the standard was consistently high, with Next being the only retailer that achieved a score of less than 50.

It scored just 23 for its homepage and 22 for the product page I looked at, which was easily the worst score out of the 10 retailers.

Apple actually achieved the second lowest homepage score (62) and had the joint sixth lowest score (76) for its product page.

At the other end of the scale, Tesco clocked the highest homepage score of 95 and was the only retailer that didn't get any medium or high priority recommendations on how to improve its site speed.

However Tesco’s product page scored 79, while Amazon had a more consistent score of 90 for its homepage and 91 for the Kindle product page.

In truth though, the differences in page speed between Amazon and Next weren’t that noticeable on the Econsultancy Wi-Fi connection, but it could be that the impact is more obvious for users with slower broadband.

However this test does give a useful benchmark for other businesses concerned about site speed, and shows that from Google’s point of view even major retailers can stand to make improvements to their page loading times.

David Moth

Published 25 October, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1679 more posts from this author

Comments (14)

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Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

Thanks for this article David. To provide some very much bang up-to-date consumer insights to the importance of site speed, and your comment:

"..losing even a few seconds on your load time can have an adverse impact on usability, conversions and SEO."

I can categorically say that site speed DOES have an adverse impact on usability & conversion rates. Although brand loyalty and sentiment do mean a portion of users will persevere on some big brand retail websites, this doesn't mean that having poor site performance isn't a real profit killer for retailers.

In our consumer research sessions we often ask users to visit different retail sites (some of which you refer to in this post) as a way of benchmarking site performance but also to gauge how site speed affects their views, confidence and therefore probability to purchase on a site. In each case site speed issues affects their full user journey both directly but also by multiplying the affects of other smaller usability issues they may encounter.

In summary retailers should focus lots of their efforts on improving site speed, especially in the run up to Christmas.

almost 4 years ago

Andrew McGarry

Andrew McGarry, Managing Director at McGarry Fashion

GANT UK site at www.gant.co.uk scored 88/100 from Google, making it faster than all of the top ten except for giants Amazon and Tesco.

Not bad for a brand new ecommerce platform launched last month and created by MARKUP - some of the dev guys behind All Saints, Ted Baker USA, and Reiss.

The Markup website is amazing too: http://www.usemarkup.com/

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Andrew That's pretty good.

Amazed how bad Next's score is - it doesn't seem that slow when you use it.

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Curiosity got the better of me, and I just had to find out the page speed for Ling's Cars.

You might think a bunch of gifs, audio, and a 500 ft long homepage might produce a bad result, but no. It scored 81.

almost 4 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Graham - only 500ft? I think you are doing Ling a dis-service there!

Great score btw!!

almost 4 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

hi, everyone,

I really like this idea.

It's probably worth pointing out that you can have a bad score on Google's PageSpeed tool just checks pages against a checklist, and isn't actually a measure of site speed.

It would be fun to do the same with (say) pingdom or one of those other speed testing tools.

Oddly, Google Analytics is about the best 'site speed' source you can use for your own website at the moment, as long as you understand its odd quirks and caveats. It gathers data direct from users' browsers, whereas most of the paid for services use their own datacentres.

dan

almost 4 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

sorry - comment went awry in the middle. Should have been something along these lines:

"You can have a bad score on Google's PageSpeed tool & actually have a very fast site, and the opposite is true too. The tool simply checks pages against a checklist."

That also explains why sites like Next could score badly, but actually be pretty fast.

All of this is fairly subjective too: If you're on a tablet in the scottish highlands, probably slower than being on a wired network in the next building along from a datacentre in slough.

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Thanks Dan, that's spoiled our scores ;)

Are there any other tools for checking third party sites that you'd recommend?

almost 4 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

hi, Graham, sorry to be the boring uncle. Here are a few.

Paid for:

SiteConfidence
SciVisum
(Sitemorse & Gomez do very similar I think, but have not used sitemorse directly or gomez for many years)

Free:

WebPageTest (despite the name is surprisingly brilliant functionalitywise)
Pingdom (there are lots of near-clones around too)
LoadImpact (which also allows free/very cheap load testing)

dan

almost 4 years ago

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Geoff Paddock

Sitemorse measures website performance as part of its regular benchmarking of the websites in a number of sectors each quarter. Looking at the most recent Index of the Retail Top 500, performance scores can be seen by following the surveys tab on the sitemorse homepage.

Of the sites mentioned in the article, we found ASOS to be the slowest, with Next and Tesco also high up the 'click and wait' list.

Page load time, while clearly important, is not the only issue that can affect a good consumer experience, of course, and the Sitemorse benchmark itemises other areas that can affect this, such as functional failures and code quality. The quarterly Sitemorse benchmarks can be seen for key websites in other sectors such as FTSE All Share companies, central and local government on our website.

almost 4 years ago

Jocelyn Kirby

Jocelyn Kirby, Head of Marketing at Red Hot Penny

Interesting article - I'm rather pleased to see our client ecommerce sites score well & are fast too :)

With consumers becoming increasingly impatient, it's so important to ensure sites load promptly - who waits around for a slow site these days? We don't have time!

Thanks for an interesting read!

almost 4 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

@Geoff - that's a brilliant resource! Thanks for sharing - I didn't know about that.

For anyone who hasn't seen, here's the direct link:
http://www.sitemorse.com/survey/report.html?rt=878

dan

almost 4 years ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Hi

thanks Dan for mentioning us (SciVisum) :>).

I'm in the web performance space so I do take this stuff very seriously, but I would caution against analysing your site on a 'one page at a time basis'.

Google's page tools are very useful.

But it's the multi-page User Journeys that your real users follow that is where your site makes it's money!

So it's the sum performance of those journeys that count, more than pages themselves. (for example some pages are slower when coming from certain pages, than others: often on adding_to_basket journeys for example).

See more of my comments about the need for science and hard evidence in my comment to the article "Which newspaper has the slowest website? " on the 26th.

Ultimately, it's important to start by using your knowledge of your business, and to map out the User Journeys that are the main money-spinners on your site : and plan meaningful measurement of those 24/7: and ensure realism by having Add to Basket journeys choose a different product each time or similar: aim to 'Do what the Customer does' in your journeys: and cover your mobile site too of course.

====

Start with the money and your users behaviour- not the site URLs!

over 3 years ago

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Brad Canham

Hi Dan and gang,

I'll try not to be too much of a shameless vendor here. With that said, Dotcom-Monitor does provide an external-based testing tool that is free, which you can use to run 19 worldwide simultaneous tests using IE, FF, Chrome browsers that provide in detail page performance at a page element level with network affects (latency etc...)http://www.dotcom-monitor.com/WebTools/technical-tools-browser-test.aspx I think that should give you what you're looking for without having to sign up for anything. -Brad

over 3 years ago

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