March 11, 2010, 12:00 AM

An increase in cluttered web pages is hurting web performance, expert says

Web retailers are increasingly using more images on their product pages. But too many images enhanced with unnecessary rich media can have a negative impact on page load times, says Timberline Interactive vice president Tom Funk.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

Designers of retail e-commerce sites need to keep in mind performance issues as they embark on a new project or a major redesign, says Tom Funk, vice president of marketing for Timberline Interactive, a Middlebury, VT, web site design firm.

These days many web retailers are making over their home page with up to four major hero shots, says Funk. While bigger images and different navigation paths to individual brands might be a main goal of a chief marketing officer, multiple images will also impact page load speed. “Web visitors aren’t the same as TV viewers and don’t need to see multiples of everything on a home page,” says Funk. “If the home page is taking up to 10 seconds to load or visitors have to refresh a page in order to view multiple images designed with Flash, these can be negative performance issues.”

Web retailers are increasingly using more images on their product pages. But too many images enhanced with unnecessary rich media will affect page load times, says Funk. “If it’s taken over three seconds to load a page because of too many images, retailers need to think about doing more with image compression,” says Funk. “Some retailers are solving that problem by using content delivery networks. Instead of overloading one main server, a content delivery network lets the shopper in California see the image served up locally and performance isn’t an issue.”

The key to a great design that also improves web site performance is the effective use of what Funk calls page real estate. “Some time less is more effective,” says Funk. “If the number of refreshes is climbing and people are spending less time on a page, that could be a tip-off that the page design is too complicated and hurting site performance. A clear and effective design should provide a visitor with a great navigation that has a minimal impact on performance.”



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