The Need for Website Speed… Importance Grows in 2019… 8 of 45 Higher Ed Sites are “Excellent” Now
Website speed review from Unbounce…
Many, perhaps most, potential students of every age first come into contact with a particular college or university by visiting the website. Visits often, but by means always, start at the home page and continue deeper into a site to complete “top tasks” that bring them deeper into the site.
We also know from various studies from Google and others that the slower a website downloads on a mobile phone, the more impatient people will leave before downloading is complete. A handful of universities might be able to absorb that loss. Most cannot.
Soon after the new year I came across a report from Unbounce… “2019 is the Year of Page Speed. Are You Ready?“… a detailed review of how Google has been promising/threatening to make website speed a factor in search results without ever doing very much about it. Until now. In 2019, that will change.
Read this review. Share it with anyone on your campus who has anything to do wth your website: President. Deans. Admissions. Advancement. Anyone else you can think of.
Let’s go to good news… between September 2017 and now I’ve selected 45 higher education websites for “Link of the Week” status. During that time “Google Test My Site” has rated 8 of those sites as “excellent” with mobile download speeds of 3 seconds… or, in one case, lower.
Another 15 sites were measured at 4 to 5 seconds. That’s “Good” for Google.
Not so speedy were 19 sites measured at 6 to 10 seconds. Alas, 3 were quite slow at 11 to 20 seconds.
Celebrate the truly speedy. If these 4 schools can build rapid website pages, so can everyone else. The problem isn’t ability. The problem is lack of interest. Lack of interest translates into lack of time and lack of money as resources go elsewhere.
A change at Google…
Note that Google has just in the last few days made substantial changes in the Google Test My Site service that I use to check mobile download speeds for Link of the Week selections. None of the ratings here reflect any changes. Also note that the Google speed ratings can vary by a second or two each time a test is run. The ratings below are those obtained when I first selected a website.
4 truly speedy “excellent” higher education websites…
Princeton University… “Highlighting faculty in student recruitment at the admissions website.”
This is the only website I’ve tested that scored a 2 second mobile speed rating.
There’s nothing especially fancy on this page… introductory text is just above the key page content: 16 photos of Princeton faculty from a wide variety of academic areas. Clean, simple, easy-to-scan to find faculty in areas of highest interest. In other words, a good visitor experience.
So far, this is the gold standard, if only by 1 second over the next 6 sites.
These 6 Link of the Week sites pass the “need for speed” test better than most, from most recent to oldest selection date:
- St. John’s University… Landing Page for a NY Times Ad
- Temple University… 29 Student Vlogs Boost Student Recruitment
- National University… Video Promotions Using Website, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram
- Boston University… Transfer Admissions
- Gettysburg College… Academic Programs Sorry to report that this page no longer exists. The link once lead directly to a page displaying “Majors & Minors.” Now it goes to a general “Academics” page with no clear path to those academic programs.
- University of Massachusetts… Online Home Page
- Lycoming College… Super-Clear Scholarship Criteria
15 “Good” websites at 4 to 5 seconds
Without listing the 15 sites here, let’s just say that it was good to see so many cluster at this level. Google regards 5 seconds as the minimally acceptable speed. It rates a 5 second site, for instance, as “Good” with a relatively low 19 percent loss rate for people using a mobile phone.
That means that 51 percent of the Link of the Week sites included here are doing well.
The 19 (42 percent) of websites that scored 6 to 10 second speeds need to improve to create a better visitor experience for potential students and everyone else who comes to the site on mobile.
3 “Slower than Most” websites… 16 seconds is slowest
Bath Spa University… Very Slow Primary Pages
The home page at this U.K. university was quite slow at 15 seconds. That made me wonder about other primary pages. Speed tests on 6 of those pages were also quite slow… from 9 seconds to 13 seconds.
This is an overall website that would torture most mobile phone visitors. Google estimated a visitor loss for the home page at 32 percent.
Our other two “11 to 20” websites:
- Yale University… Unusually Bold Cost Estimator Priority… (13 seconds)
- Western Governors University… Student Reviews… (16 seconds)
A last note… “Good” isn’t good enough
Website speed is important. More than a few of us have been crusading for increased attention to speed for years. In my case, at least since 2013 with a conference presentation on “A Need for Speed: Responsive Design in a Mobile World.” Better to have a faster website than show that you can take drone pictures of a campus quad for the home page.
As mobile use increases as the first path to a college or university website, website speed needs in increase as well. We can see here that many sites in higher education are doing well. Many others can do better. My last two Link of the Week selections have rated at 3 seconds. Let’s hope those low “Excellent” scores continue as 2019 moves along. “Good” isn’t good enough.
That’s All for Now
Subscribe to “Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter” for monthly marketing new and notes and weekly Link of the Week selections.
The “Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content” group on LinkedIn has 695+ members. Request membership here.
Join 7,300+ people and follow me on Twitter for daily higher education marketing updates.