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Haunted by Slow Web Pages? We Put Halloween E-Commerce Sites to the Test

Ari Weil on Oct 15, 2012 9:53:00 PM

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As kids, the primary function of Halloween is to score as much candy as possible. But many adults use the holiday as an opportunity to brag about their assets -- whether it be an excuse to blatantly flash more cleavage (really, is there any police role that warrants THESE uniforms?) or to provide a forum for nerds to document their own cleverness.

In the latter category, I was impressed by the fully functional Pac Man arcade game below, which is crafted out of a regular laptop computer and some plywood (DIY instructions are in Make Magazine).

Most Halloween revelers, however, are not so creative. Millions of costumes get purchased online, a place where you can temporarily explore your fantasies without being judged (until the party, of course).

Working Pacman Costume resized 600

Getting in the holiday spirit, Yottaa ran 16 dramatically diverse costumes (including one for dogs) through WebsiteTest.com, our free tool that lets you measure your e-commerce site’s speed against the competition and pinpoint areas needing improvement.

Not wanting to discriminate against any fantasy genre, we chose items in four different categories: Funny, Cute, Scary and Sexy. As a point of comparison, we also shopped for some of those same costumes on Amazon.com. Take a glance at the results below, which conveniently double as a Yottaa Halloween Shopping Guide:

(Note: the Test URL links in the spreadsheet above show detailed data for each page.)

The average Time to Interact (a key milestone for web page loading: all of the page resources have been loaded and rendered, and the web page is fully ready for user interaction) is 4.49 seconds, a bit faster than the 6-7 seconds we typically see on e-commerce sites.

leaNaked Princess Leia popped up the fastest (2 seconds) on MrCostumes.com, while Barack Obama was the slowest (nearly 8 seconds) on iParty.com. When you’re the President of the United States, it’s okay to keep people waiting.

It is interesting to note that 80-90 percent of a typical web site's load time is due to the content complexity and structure of the site – not in the Internet delivery. The more complex a site is, the more javascripts and style sheets, the more assets, and the more domains content is pulled from (e.g., video embeds, news feeds, social media widgets, etc.) -- there are inevitable delays.  For example, here's the impact of javascripts on site speed for our 20 Halloween sites:

javascript halloween

Site Speed Matters

Shopping, Halloween or not, is all about instant gratification. When a customer clicks on a costume, he or she only wants to think about whether they can picture themselves as Mitt Romney or Michelle Obama – and whether their friends will be entertained. The moment there are delays, the focus switches to “Where else can I find this product?”

If you happen to be in the wonderful profession of costume sales, you know that no one has a monopoly on fishnet stockings, angel wings or devil tails. The biggest challenge for all e-retailers is luring customers away from the comfort zone of Amazon.com, the not-just-books-anymore behemoth that now cross-sells everything from automotive parts to Zambonis (well, toy ones).

In our head-to-head contests on WebsiteTest.com, here’s how some of Amazon’s competitors fared in terms of loading time (in seconds):

showdown

Taking the average of all the Amazon times (5.37), the e-commerce giant is about a second slower than its costume competitors (4.27). Amazon is like the New York Yankees of online retailing – you can always count on them being there at the end. In terms of Web optimization, it looks like a bunch of sites have done what they can to level the playing field in terms of speed. Whether their prices can beat Amazon’s is another story.

Inspired to improve YOUR customers’ user experience?

yo2Here’s where Yotta can help:

  1. Benchmark your site for free at websitetest.com.
  2. Start a FREE monitoring account to monitor your site’s user experience metrics (here’s an eBook on what to monitor).
  3. Increase your site speed using the techniques outlined in our eBook (or let Yottaa do it automatically!)

On a more lighthearted note, we’d love to hear what characters you’ll be channeling this Halloween.  Anyone up for dressing up as the Yottaa Robot?

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Ari Weil

VP of Products | I am a hands-on, results-focused, resourceful and creative product leader with a track record for successful solutions from initial concept throughout the product lifecycle. Filling various management and operational roles at each company I've worked, I enjoy and thrive under pressure. Nirvana is a dynamic, fast-paced organization where creativity, quality, collaboration and customer focus are key to delivering truly impactful products. Specialties: Product management, lifecycle management, networking and communication, database administration, performance tuning, production deployment and support, some system administration background. Experienced and engaging public speaker and evangelist.