How faster internet resulted in slower sites and webshops

During the years 2011 through 2019, 4g coverage spread from 5% to 79% of the world. During that same time period, the median average JavaScript transfer size to mobile devices increased by 611%, from 52kb to 372.9 KB.

Despite the often free website pagespeed improvements, filament group is warning us for 5G. Not because of possible health issues, but because of history learned us the prior outcomes and thus lesson when it comes to site performance.

During my study in 2007, a (by now retired) teacher of computer engineering explained how software and database architecture became less smart and more bloated in his early days, due to increasing disk spaces. Where you had to be very carefull how large you would make the column in your database table back then, we often make a VARCHAR column-type 255 characters by default nowadays, because we an. And let's be honest: when it comes to disk space, we can, as the impact on sitespeed, user experience and thus conversion itself is zero.

However, the same is already happening on the web, I'm afraid. The web is growing while the awareness of performance and how your code is being evaulated by browsers, is disappearing, making sites and shops slow in current and future eras.

Also consider user expectations

Let's involve the following external aspect: What if users get more impatient due to 5G and expect better (maybe instant) website loading times? They already are impatient, even on mobile devices.

Image by mobile1st.com

As described in the image, this is how users behave when experiencing unsatisfying loading times of about more than 4 seconds:

  • 62% will behave more or less normally;
  • 23% will curse at their phone;
  • 11% will scream at their phone;
  • and 4% might throw their phone.

Although this is telling is something about the need of anger management courses (or budget or maybe even insurance, when smashing their phones), this isn't even telling us something about the bounce-rate. Obviously, it is easier clicking back to the search engine result pages or abandon the quest for the desired product all together, than smashing your phone.

47% of shoppers expect a mobile web page to load within two seconds, 40% abandon the site if their wait exceeds three seconds, and each additional second of loading time results in a 7% reduction in conversions.

Mobile1st.com

In essence, speed (or its lack) kills conversions – on mobile devices just as on desktops.

Impact of 5G on user experience

Once 5G coverage has grown, users might expect the same sitespeed and page loading results when not being within 5G coverage. Besides expanding the UX gap, this could result in bounce/pogosticking issue when a website's loading time can't meet user's expectations. I ain't sure here obviously, as I'm more into the technical part of optimizing than the psychological part.

More pagespeed improvements and 5G

Luckily, there are a lot more browser, infrastructure or server changes that is speeding up loading experiences besides the six free pagespeed optimizations. Take resource hints for example, although a bit of developer-work is needed to implement it (just like native lazyloading, to be honest), or webp images, sometimes done by hosting providers, out-of-the-box. Chances are, you are benefitting from them already.

Next improvement in line is 5G, but will it really improve UX and increase conversion of your webshop? I will elaborate on this subject in my next article.