Mobile First Impressions: You’ve Got One Second

You’ve always known first impressions are important. That’s what first-day-of-school outfits were for growing up. That’s why job interviews are so important. That’s why people agonize over first dates. (Pro tip: if you didn’t always know first impressions were important: they are.)

Only, with interpersonal interactions, your first impression of someone else takes longer than .1 second to formulate. If you stumble over a few words or miss their name the first time, you have a minute or so to recover.

mobile site

Photo by Robert Scoble

When interacting with websites, users don’t have the same patient forgiveness. Research has shown that if a page takes longer than .1-1 seconds to load, your users might start to feel like their “flow,” as Google calls it, has been interrupted. They feel like the system isn’t responding instantaneously, which seems like a lot to ask, but we’ve gotten kind of used to instantaneous these days. So if 2G and 3G radios take up to two seconds to establish an operational HTTP connection, and users start to lose interest after three seconds, a website has only one full second left to respond.

Luckily, that doesn’t mean your mobile site has to fully load in one second. In fact, the average mobile site currently takes 7 seconds to load. However, your site does have to load something in that second, which should feel a little more manageable.

According to Google’s Webmaster Blog, “to deliver the best experience and keep the visitor engaged, our guidelines focus on rendering some content, known as the above-the-fold content, to users in one second (or less!) while the rest of the page continues to load and render in the background. The above-the-fold HTML, CSS, and JS is known as the critical rendering path.”

Worried about your page-load time now? Don’t sweat it too much—just do what you can to fix it. Google has a pretty helpful PageSpeed Insights tool to help webmasters optimize their mobile pages for “sub-second” rendering.

Who would have thought back in the days of dial-up that anything on the Internet would be classified as “sub-second?”