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While it's understandable that news sites want to maximise online revenues as offline ad sales decline, but they run the risk of damaging the user experience

Several popular newspaper sites are now cumbersome and slow to load, thanks to the sheer number of elements on the page. 

Having looked at the page speed of the top e-commerce sites in the UK, I thought I'd do the same with news sites. So which is the slowest? 

Independent

The Independent website is noticeably slow. After clicking on an article, you're unable to scroll down at first while you wait for the various ads to load. 

It's another news site where very little of the actual article can be seen above the fold, while the flickering and movement from banner and other ads is a distraction. 

As well as using Google's PageSpeed Test, I've also used webpagetest, which notes the load time in seconds. 

The results: 

  • Google's test gives the Indy 80 out of 100.
  • According to webpagetest, the homepage took 28.69 seconds to load fully. 

The Sun

The Sun also goes for as many annoying ads as it can, though at least it covers up a picture of Jimmy Savile in this case. 

It has a large homepage, but seems to be quicker than the Independent. 

The stats? 

  • Google gives the Sun a healthy 88. 
  • The load time according to webpagetest is 33.53 seconds. 

Daily Star

  • Google gives the Star a very poor 58. 
  • Load time is 14.36 seconds. 

Express

  • Google speed test: 72.
  • Load time: 15.52 seconds. 

The Times

  • Google speed test:74.
  • Page load time: 14.71 seconds. 

Telegraph

The Telegraph feels reasonably quick to load, but what do the stats say?

  • Google page speed score: 74.
  • Load time: 38.28 seconds. 

The Guardian

The Guardian isn't averse to the odd ad on its pages, and they're generally unobtrusive. There are exceptions though...

 

  • Google page speed: 83.
  • Load time: 11.5 seconds.

Daily Mirror

  • Google page speed: 83.
  • Load time: 15.13 seconds. 

Daily Mail

The homepage is enormous, and all those images in the 'sidebar of shame' must slow the site down surely? Let's see...

  • Google page speed: 95 (top score). 
  • Load time: 29.52 seconds. 

Caveats

The two tools I've used here are a guide, and the speed of a site will very much depend on location, equipment used, and so on.

The time of the test seems to make a difference too. For example, I tested the Telegraph site two hours after I got the result published above, and the load time was down to 18.5 seconds

Likewise, a bad score on Google's page speed tool doesn't necessarily mean a site is slow, but it does provide some useful pointers on the kinds of issues slowing down sites. 

Conclusion

Though, based purely on the stats from the tests, the Telegraph is the slowest newspaper site of the nine I've looked at here, it isn't noticeably slower to use than any other site here.

In fact, I would nominate the Independent as the slowest site, as it is visiibly slow, and you can't scroll down and read articles until the various ad elements have finished loading. 

The stats say that the  fastest site is the Guardian, which scored 83 on Google's test, and loads (fully) in just over 11 seconds. 

Graham Charlton

Published 26 October, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Graham

I work in the sector of website performance, so I do have views on it (did someone say an axe to grind!).

I was pleased though that you made the important caveat you did:
> The time of the test seems to make a difference too. For example, I tested the Telegraph site two hours after I got the result published above, and the load time was down to 18.5 seconds

If as eComm experts we're going to make decisions it it's only right we make them based on good evidence.

And to be honest Graham, statistically there is little science in a tiny number of samples of just the webpage on some sites.

The obvious problem of only taking a couple of samples - is that the speed of any page will have some statistical noise in it: so it will vary by quite some percent. Some websites are particularly variable in this regard: and it easily leads to giving them an unduly fast rating (by chance if a fast sample is taken), or an unduly slow rating( you caught a slow one): when in reality their average is in the middle. (Sites where speed varies widely are not ideal of course, that volatility can lose visitors too)

Secondly, the homepage of a site is important - but it's not the whole site! Those newspapers make their money by moving their readers through a sequence of pages; a retailer obviously has vitally important journeys like _Find a product and Add to Basket_: or _Checkout and Pay_.

It's the speed of the whole flow from page to page that adds up to the total journey performance that matters in terms of winning and keeping business.

It's the speed of experience following a journey using the mobile website that is also important.

So - if anyone reading this has any hunches that their own site may be slow: don't start by statictically meaningless small samples of the homepage: instead work out the multi-path Journeys that are the vital money-making ones for your site: and then ask around and find an inhouse team or a supplier like us that can measure those 24/7: can measure them on your mobile site: and can load test them to see in advance what your users experiecnce in your seasonal peaks.

Only then will you have actionable data, and evidence to persuade the powers to be to invest where's needed, to improve your users experience.

And you'll have hard data measured during the real peak at Christmas, to aid planning 2013 budget for ecommerce speed-up projects ready for next Christmas.

almost 4 years ago

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Glean Elie, Homeworker at Homeworker

All of this being said. A bad user experience (a slow loading web page) is very bad news.

This has been a bug bear of mine for ages. Not only are the pages over burdened with Adverts etc but these very sites often offer us the "Top 50 XXX of XXX".

But, each XXX is on a separate page. Though some of the subject matter is occasionally fascinating, just imagine trying to click through 50 pages @ 15/ 30 secs loading time each.

I tried once or twice in the past but, having got the "gist" have never gone back. Also, because the experience is more or less the same across the online newspaper sites I don't use any.

4 months ago

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