Winning the race: The Hare of Website Speed AND the Tortoise of Steady Content

The old fable and the new translation

We all remember how the story goes, the local townspeople cheered on Max Hare to win a race against Toby the Tortoise.  Toby gets jeered for being slow and clumsy, and the athletic but cocky Max Hare is the heavy favorite in this lopsided sporting event. In the end, Toby the Tortoise crosses the finish line first with his determination and steady pace, while Max Hare finds himself lost on the track, more concerned about being crowned a winner than getting through the race itself. 

It’s a great story! It’s inspired children to slow down and make thoughtful decisions before jumping into uncharted territory.  As a former child myself, the translation of this story still pertains to designing and developing websites, but finds a new meaning in this technology-driven speed-oriented day and age. 

Websites are continuously scrutinized by Search Engine Optimization, demanding faster-loading pages, smaller asset sizes such as images and files, all the while having a steady flow of fresh and current content on your page. In the 21st century, small businesses feel the pressure of taking on the role of both Toby and Max in their online presence and our users take on the role of the townspeople, initially attracted to the fast loading speed, and then driven back to our website by the steady flow of current content. Instead of either-or, the best way to win the race now is both-and, finding the happy medium between both qualities, steadiness and speed. 

Bring the speed

Speed influences how a consumer interacts with your site, and if not optimized correctly it can be the first way you lose a user’s attention. Townspeople have a need for speed!

What is it that makes a website speedy? Several factors can affect a website’s performance.  Compressing image and animation file sizes,  reducing server response times, browser caching, prioritizing important content and minimizing url redirects are all concepts that contribute to a faster experience for our users.  When performance becomes an issue with a website, oftentimes one or more of these concepts are addressed, but if several are missed, it can actually compound the issue. 

With the right performance, your website will appear at the top of search results, helping connect more users to your products or services. In a study done by  Google, 47% of consumers expect a website to load in two seconds or less, and that 33% expect load times on a mobile-device to be equal to or faster than that of a desktop site (Google).

Whether the user is searching for the website on desktop or mobile view, it’s important to optimize performance for both use cases. Having a responsive web design along with compressed assets allows consumers to surf the site at a faster pace.

Uploading a heavy image, with an original image size at 5000px width, and unoptimized for web, slows down the site and negatively impacts SEO.  Nowadays, there are plenty of resources online to determine optimal image size for the web, but with a continually-changing environment, the expected file sizes are getting smaller.  

Implementing a compression software and CDN, or Content Delivery Network, allow small-business websites to keep their content fast without having to manually update file sizes.  By running the assets on your website through compression software, the content size is minimized, thus reducing the length of a server request to download images in the browser. 

In addition to compressing, images and assets should be run through a CDN. To make your website more accessible to a broader audience, a CDN takes the files on a page of your website, and stores them in server locations nearest to the user’s device.  For example, if a user in Greenland wants to access your site that’s hosted in Duluth, Minnesota, the heaviest assets (images, links, videos) are stored in a CDN nearest to their location. You can consider this like using a walkie talkie.  The further you are from the other device, the harder it is to connect, but the closer you are, the better the signal. 

Maintaining wins the race

Making the right decision for maintaining your website can bring great rewards, driving organic search visibility, conversion, engagement and reducing bounce rates, and driving traffic to your website. 

Google indexes roughly 55 billion websites, and to connect users with the content most relevant to what they are looking for, Google goes through a process of crawling and indexing to search for relevancy and thoughtful content.  Google’s mission for content is as follows:

“Our company mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Today, there are 547,200 new websites created on the World Wide Web every day. (Huck)  Many of these sites are irrelevant, redundant and slow, adding to the lengthy list of websites a user must click through to find the content they are looking for. 

Our mission as website designers and business-owners, should be to provide Google with only the most relevant, up to date and thorough content. For that reason, we encourage you to not only keep current on your website, but delete old, unmaintained content that won’t improve your user’s experience. It not only affects the performance of your site, but leads to poor user satisfaction.

So who wins?

Although Toby the Tortoise won in the end of this centuries old fable, leaving Max Hare in the dust, today it’s impossible to compete with billions of rabbits and turtles on the internet without having strategized for both types of competitors. 

Keep your eye on the prize, and put the leap of faith into optimizing your online presence, but keep a level head when adding and removing content from your page.  Be conscious about how your content is perceived, and have the courage to show up to the starting line every day against your competition. 

Today, you are both the Tortoise and the Hare.  We’ll leave the imagery of the two animals mashed together as nightmare fuel, but instead try to picture your website as the answer to your user’s problem. Find the solution for them and put it in front of their face faster than your competition can. 

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