Craigslist, Wikipedia, and Zillow are the fastest-loading U.S. websites on the internet, according to a study released Monday by web design company DigitalSilk.
The study rated popular websites based on average mobile and desktop load times. Craigslist crowned the list of fastest sites with an average of 1.35 seconds, 2.0 seconds on mobile, and 0.7 seconds on the desktop.
Following the online classified site was the crowdsourced encyclopedia Wikipedia, with an average load time of 1.40 seconds (1.6 mobile, 1.2 desktop), and the real estate website Zillow, with an average load time of 1.5 seconds (1.6 mobile, 1.2 desktop).
The New York Times had the fastest mobile load times in the top 10 at 1.3 seconds. Overall, the Times finished fourth in the DigitalSilk rankings, with an average load time of 1.55 seconds, tied with Amazon, which had a mobile load time of 1.5 seconds and a desktop time of 1.6 seconds.
Following the Times was the U.S. Postal Service, with an average load time of 1.60 seconds, Realtor.com (1.70 seconds), eBay (1.75 seconds), Weather.com (1.75 seconds), Worldstar.com (1.80 seconds), DuckDuckGo (1.85 seconds) and Fandom.com (1.90 seconds).
“All of these sites in the top 10 load between one and two seconds on average, and that aligns with consumers’ expectations that their web browsing experience should be smooth and instantaneous,” Gabriel Shaoolian, CEO and founder of DigitalSilk, said in a statement.
“The lesson for business owners is clear,” he continued, “they need to make sure that their website loading times on both desktop and mobile are slick and responsive to ensure that all potential customers get a high-quality user experience.”
Fast Page Load Benefits
“Most of the sites on the list use old-school interfaces. Websites like Craigslist and eBay are largely text-based, so they load faster,” observed Mark N. Vena, president and principal analyst at SmartTech Research in San Jose, Calif.
“Studies have shown that when web pages load faster, conversion rates are higher,” he told TechNewsWorld.
More than 20 studies have been conducted since 2009 exploring the connection between load times and user behavior.
In 2009, for example, Amazon estimated that every 100ms of latency on its site reduced sales by 1%.
Firefox, in 2010, found that reducing the average page load times by 2.2 seconds increased download conversions by 15.4%.
Reducing load time by one second improved conversions by about 10%, Staples discovered in 2014.
Vodafone revealed in a 2021 study that a 31% improvement in Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), a measure of how quickly the main content of a web page becomes visible to a user, resulted in 8% more sales.
In the same year, Swappie, a site for selling used mobile phones, disclosed that lowering their page load times by 23% increased revenues by 42%.
Also in 2021, French automaker Groupe Renault found a one-second improvement in LCP led to a 13% increase in conversions.
Speed by Design
“For popular, high-traffic websites, fast downloading is critical for good performance and user retention,” observed Eileen Mullin, owner of GenuineClass, a web design consultancy in New York City.
“It’s also very important for avoiding overloading a server, resulting in crashes that lead to downtime,” she told TechNewsWorld.
She noted that content can have an impact on website performance. “Websites can have an issue with slow performance if they serve up very large files that must be downloaded before the rest of the page loads,” she explained. “These could include images that are needlessly large, or videos hosted locally instead of through a streaming service like YouTube or Vimeo.”
Design, too, will impact performance, Mullin added.
“If a website design relies overly on large hero images or an image slideshow on the home page, that can result in loading delays that can adversely affect the first impression visitors get when they come to that site,” she said.
“Design can have a significant role in performance,” added Alex Krivit, a product manager for Cloudflare, a web performance and security company in San Francisco.
“Designers can prioritize assets for faster load times, for example,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Website Speed Tips
Not only will prioritizing the loading of essential assets, such as images, stylesheets, and scripts, enhance the user experience and reduce page load times, but so will compressing assets, Krivit added.
Compressing data before transmission and efficiently using a shared dictionary will reduce the amount of data transferred between a server and a browser, resulting in faster page load times and decreased bandwidth usage.
A shared dictionary allows a server and browser to use the same set of patterns and references during compression and decompression, which makes the compression by both resources more efficient.
“Reducing the number of assets, and the size of those files, included in web pages is very important to improve download speeds,” Mullin added.
“Lazy Loading is another technique for only loading images on a page when visitors have scrolled far enough down to see them,” she continued.
“I especially like to recommend image optimization,” she said, “which can greatly reduce the size of images uploaded to a website, with little or no discernible loss in quality.”
“If a website is non-transactional or informational,” Vena added, “it can be heavier on graphics. Transactional websites, though, need to be fast to optimize their conversion rates.”
Instagram Finishes Last
Other findings in the DigitalSilk study included:
- The slowest loading website in the study was photo-heavy Instagram, which had an average of 5.45 seconds for loading. The site on mobile takes a whopping 6.7 seconds to load and 4.2 seconds on desktop.
- The most visited website, Google, had an average load time of 2.85 seconds. While it had a respectable mobile load time of 1.1 seconds, its desktop time of 4.6 seconds bloated the search giant’s overall performance.
- Facebook, the most visited social media website, was found to have loading times of 3.8 seconds on mobile and 3.9 seconds on desktop, for an average of 3.85 seconds.
“It’s interesting to see how websites like Wikipedia and Craigslist, which have barely changed their design and have remained largely text-based, topped our list, and the popularity of these sites shows that sometimes simplicity can work,” Shaoolian said.
“However…going the extra mile with website design on a new brand can be crucial in 2023,” he added.