In light of all the transformations we’re seeing on the web, one aspect must be kept top of mind: speed. Consumers’ expectations for pages to load quickly – whether on traditional or mobile sites – are increasing all the time. If your site performs too slowly, you risk losing visitors to your competitors, possibly for good. Also, Google takes page load time into account as part of their ranking algorithm, so a slower loading page can undermine your SEO efforts.

There is an abundance of research that shows the impact – both good and bad – that speed has on e-commerce sites. issued some startling statistics not long ago, such as:

  • The average online shopper expects web pages to load in two seconds or less, down from four seconds in 2006; after three seconds, up to 40% will abandon a site — Forrester Research
  • 78% of consumers surveyed went to a competitor’s site due to poor performance at peak times — Compuware and Equation Research
  • 71% of mobile web users expect websites to load as quickly, almost as quickly or faster on their mobile phone compared to the computer they use at home — up from 58% in 2009 — Compuware and Equation Research
  • Conversion rate increases 74% when page load time decreases from 8 to 2 seconds — Gomez real user monitoring data (33 major retailers, 3 million page views, search transaction)

The need for speed applies to all pages of your site, including site search and navigation – and luckily, there are a few things you can do to make your search operate faster and more efficiently, adding to a satisfying online experience. Some initial steps you can take are outlined below.

1. Optimize your indexing for faster search

A modern search index should be able to return relevant results in a fraction of a second. Some sites make the mistake of querying directly into their product database which is not optimized for speed, or relevance. This can slow down the process significantly.

2. Utilize Ajax search

Ajax search speeds up search queries by removing the need for a page-refresh each time a user conducts a follow-on query, selects a refinement, switches between grid and list views, reorders the results or clicks to the next page. In any of these instances, only the data that is needed is requested from the servers so the results appear much faster. (See our video tutorial on using Ajax search here.)

3. Address mobile sites

On a mobile commerce site, speed is even more important. The mobile site and the mobile search should only have the content and functionality that is absolutely necessary. SLI has developed a set of best practices for delivering mobile search (see our video tutorial here). One way to significantly improve load time of search pages is to use thumbnails instead of full size images.

4. Use content delivery networks

Content delivery networks bring the files (images, JavaScript, etc.) that are being delivered on the page, closer to the end users. This local caching can significantly speed up the delivery of those files, particularly for your visitors that are physically located far way from your servers. SLI uses Akamai for this.

5. Only include what’s necessary on your pages

Is everything on your page necessary? If you can have less on your page it will be quicker to load and the page may be simpler for your visitors to use. Conduct A/B tests to see the impact of removing elements from your page.

6. Compress your HTML

All modern browers support compression – this can be enabled on your webserver and it means the data is delivered considerably more quickly. This is an easy win.

7. Have sufficient hardware and bandwidth

Monitor how you are utilizing your machines (servers, switches, load balancers, etc.) and bandwidth, and have plenty of spare capacity so you can handle peak loads and any outages can be handled by machines that are operational.

If you have any questions about ways to speed up the search on your site, please contact your CSM, or email us at