April 14, 2021
Do you understand the importance of site speed? Do you want to build fast sites and applications to remove entry barriers, save people’s time and delight your customers? In that quest, are you finding it hard to convince your manager, boss or client that investing time in money in optimising web performance is worth it? We hear you.
While web performance as a subject area is gaining mainstream traction, speed awareness is not evenly distributed. There are numerous reasons why a business, a team, or a leader might not see speed as worth pursuing. Your manager might not be aware of the implications of poor speed and user experience.
The business owner may not understand where their sites are at. Another stakeholder might know the speed isn’t ideal but have no idea about what it would take to fix that. From lack of knowledge to fear and frustration, we can see how to be successful in pursuing web performance work, we should educate and guide the decision-makers.
This article will provide a strategic way to approach conversations about web performance and arguments that might help you win the case.
The first step is having a firm understanding of where our web performance is. You can use a free or paid speed monitoring tool, but it’s critical to test a range of experiences that reflect your audience. That way, you are not risking presenting unreliable metrics—they are trustworthy and contextual.
Depending on who you will be meeting to talk about speed, you might prepare a high or low-level report. For the first conversation, it might be helpful to focus on top-level signals, such as Performance Score and Core Web Vitals, to paint a picture of speed from different axes (interactivity, loading and visual stability). If it makes sense, you might consider including specific outliers, for example, high Time to First Byte.
Be conscious of the amount of information you are preparing—what we’re after is informing someone of the overall state of performance, not digging into particular technical issues. You might design a short slide deck or show reports from your tool of choice. With this information at hand, you are now ready to talk to your boss. Below, you will find several key arguments to use when discussing the benefits of better web performance to use alongside data.
The faster your site is, the higher your conversion and sales are likely to be. Speed by itself doesn’t guarantee high earnings—conversion is affected by design, layout, clear messaging, and many other factors. But there’s consistent research proving the correlation of high speed and better business outcomes: more conversions, page views, orders, leads, engagement and lesser bounce rate.
If you want to lean on real-world data to drive this argument home, Web Performance Optimisation Stats is an invaluable resource. For example:
While those examples mainly highlight global and recognisable companies, any website can benefit from speed gains. Slow sites hurt revenue, while fast ones boost both conversions and retention. Helping people perform tasks they hire your product for effortlessly is a business advantage. Accepting poor performance is a business liability.
Poor site speed creates real-world barriers and negatively affects user experience in numerous ways. It’s important to remember that a significant portion of people access the internet using slower, less capable devices and networks than we assume. This means that bloated and sluggish sites might be wholly inaccessible or costly to view in terms of data. By not prioritising performance, we exclude large swaths of the population who aren’t as privileged as we are.
Even if access isn’t an issue, the experience still can be negatively impacted by page load. Great design, captivating illustrations or motion won’t save us if the visitor has already left due to long load and paint times. Nearly 50% of people expect sites to load within 2 seconds and the bounce rate rises dramatically as time progresses. Studies also show that delays trigger a stress response, while fast experience increases brand engagement.
An investment in speed (and user experience) opens you to new audiences and gains existing customers’ loyalty.
Web performance has a tangible effect on Google’s search engine ranking and whether your site will appear in Top Stories. Your sites are indexed based on their mobile version and starting May 2021, and they will be ranked based on Core Web Vitals (amongst other factors). With those changes, your sites must perform well on mobile devices and meet the Core Web Vitals thresholds.
Losing ranking will impact the discoverability of your products and services, the amount of traffic, and consequently, the number of customers and sales. We use the Performance Budgets dashboard to predict the likelihood of ranking loss (and track our speed goals):
Present your Core Web Vitals readings and explain how exactly speed affects search ranking (we answer all questions related to this subject in our site speed and ranking guide). There are other ways browsers and search engines flag poorly performing and unusable sites, too. For example, a while back, Google flagged showing a loading screen warning of slow sites:
Everyone has competitors, and it’s natural to want to be the best in your space. Create a comparison dashboard with the top competitors to showcase how your company is doing. At Calibre, we use the Pages Leaderboard to benchmark websites against each other. Below, you can see how we ranked a handful of popular recipe-oriented sites based on three custom metrics:
Performance is a competitive edge, and once you visualise the difference between your company and the competition, you’re likely to spark interest. You might not be able to win with your competitors elsewhere, but speed might be one of the possible opportunities for competitive advantage. If you provide a better and faster experience than a comparable service, there’s more chance of being the top choice.
Now that you audited how your site or application performs and you have some helpful arguments for web performance, it’s time to meet with people responsible for prioritising work. This might be your or your teams’ manager, a CTO, business owner or a client of your agency or consultancy.
An essential step in convincing someone to care about speed is to present the facts in a data-driven and compassionate way. It’s relatively easy to make statements such as “our performance sucks“ or “the speed of the app is really bad”, and while they might be objectively true, they won’t be well received.
Generic, negative statements like this will feel personal and decrease how receptive people are to our pitch. They don’t feel actionable or objective. Using positive language and emphasising that you are working towards a goal together will yield better results. For example, imagine saying, “Our Performance Score is 30, but we can improve it by 20 points with a handful of low-hanging fruit tasks!”.
When communicating poor web performance, keep it factual and limit the jargon and metrics you refer to. Chances are, the person you are talking to has a different level of experience in web performance. Explain where you are at, what the optimal ranges are and what those metrics portray. If you’re confident in solutions, mention that you have a concrete plan for tangible improvements (how long would they take? can they be embedded in ongoing work?).
You can lean on the arguments described earlier to back up further how critical speed is. Wrap up the meeting by mentioning the next steps if they choose to commit to web performance work. Last but not least, give them some time to digest the information that was presented to them.
When you have successfully made a case for improving web performance, you will need a way to deliver on speed. It’s necessary to evaluate possible improvements and know their potential outcomes and implementation cost to be successful. That way, your team can focus on the most impactful tasks and see results quicker.
We wrote an actionable site speed improvement framework you can follow to ensure your work is bringing desired effects. With a strategic approach under your belt, you will deliver on your promises and further boost the confidence that investment in speed was the right decision!
To be a successful performance advocate, utilise your in-depth knowledge to make a case for the business. The key is not only leaning on expertise but also being compassionate when communicating with your higher-ups.
Don’t forget that you are working towards a mutual goal of excellent user experience and a sustainable business. Approach your co-workers’ doubts and fears with curiosity and no judgement. Help them understand the implications of speed and plan a road to better web performance.
If you need more help, we prepared a shareable PDF report that might help get your points across:
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Engineering Manager at Google Chrome