A need for speed
A new tweak to Google Chrome this week has once again highlighted the growing importance of speed on the internet.
This latest adjustment to Google's popular browser is called "pre-rendering" and is designed to significantly reduce load time once you click on a search result.
It works by pre-loading the most likely result so that it is effectively ready and waiting in the wings while you're still taking in the search results. When you click on it, the page will then pop up immediately.
There is a nifty demo on Google's Chromium Blog, which shows two pages – one with pre-rendering and one without pre-rendering – running alongside each other.
The results are pretty impressive, with load times of between five and seven seconds for regular Chrome and instant results for pre-rendering-powered Chrome.
This will obviously only work if Google guesses right, as only the most likely result is pre-loaded, not the whole page.
There are some obvious user benefits – no doubt it will also give websites something new to complain about when their pages don't get the pre-rendering gloss.
The announcement is also a useful reminder to website owners about the importance of load times when it comes to retaining and converting traffic.
There is a strong correlation between the time it takes for a page to load and how likely a visitor is to click on a call-to-action.
The speed and ease with which a user can navigate through a checkout process or an online form is known to have a big impact on drop-off rates. Site speed is also one of Google's 200 or so ranking factors.
If you want to read more about how speed can help your site, check out this very thorough post on the Distilled blog.