How to meet increasing mobile speed expectations

In the first of our ‘Driving Mobile Performance’ series, we look at the user perception of mobile website speed.

Mobile website speed remains an underestimated part of the user experience. Users expect sites to load quickly, especially when internet speeds of their country are rivalled by the rest of the world.

In Northern Europe, where mobile internet access is prevalent and 4G speeds are some of the highest worldwide, online experiences are still far from perfect. In a recent sample of 11 million websites, we found that the average time to fully load a landing page on 4G in the Nordics and Benelux is close to the European average of 12.8 seconds.1 Even in Sweden, the average full loading time is a whopping 13.2 seconds. This is too long, as we know that 53% of users will abandon a page after three seconds of loading.2

Room for improvement

The Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, and Denmark each rank amongst the top 10 average 4G speeds in the world3, but this doesn’t mean the average website loads instantly. There are still plenty of opportunities to improve performance by speeding up.

Earlier this year, Dutch retailer Primera demonstrated this by increasing conversion rates by 4% and decreasing bounce rates by 10%.

And in a recent Google analysis of mobile sites4, we found that those loading in two seconds or less had a 15% higher conversion rate than the average mobile site. So European websites have a lot of speeding up to do.

Improve speed perception

It is critical not only to improve site speed, but your user's perception of speed. On a mobile device, the visible portion of the site is limited to quite a small area. As a result, we have an opportunity to load the visible content much faster while the other elements elsewhere on the page download in the background.

Primera noted in their case study that they enhanced perceived load times by prioritising above-the-fold content. This means that content within the visible portion of the mobile screen is loaded first, and Primera was able to achieve this first load time in under one second. This is a common practice and is especially important for retail sites, which tend to be weighted down by heavy visual content.

In fact, in a study of 6 million websites, retail sites were ranked at the very bottom of page speed, with an average load time 26% slower than the fastest category. It’s critical to speed this up if you want online shoppers to convert.

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Help users on the go

Age and state of mind are also strong influencers of a user’s perception of speed. While age is something we can’t control, we do have the ability to ease their state of mind when they’re anxious or travelling.

People on the go tend to have a much slower perception of speed, and the Nordics and Benelux regions consist of the most frequent travellers within Europe. In the Benelux region, residents are twice as likely to have travelled to six or more European countries in the past year compared to the EU average.5

And ever since roaming charges within the EU were removed, it’s now apparent that Europeans are increasingly using their mobile data abroad as often as they do at home.

So make sure your website loads fast in various countries and on different internet speeds – not just your home country’s relatively fast speeds. Use speed perception techniques to thoughtfully choreograph the loading sequence of your page.

Speed up now

There are countless different ways to speed up your site, so start exploring them with your teams today. You can learn to measure your site’s performance with Lighthouse and make impactful speed improvements from web.dev/fast. These techniques will help you to understand how users perceive the speed of your site. Once you have established this, you can go the extra mile to provide a consistently reliable experience for all your users, no matter where they are. 

Find out how you stack up to new industry benchmarks for Mobile Page Speed