Web Page Performance – Such Are The Mysteries of Life

For over 15 years a group of us have run Pre-Dating.com, the largest speed dating company in the US.

Pre-Dating.com, like many websites that have been around a while is somewhat of an enigma at this point in time.

Time has moved on, but we haven’t at Pre-Dating.com! Some tech things we work on don’t have to change that rapidly.  They are great because they just work!

There is good reason why we don’t change rapidly. If you search on “speed dating seattle” and place that search into Google, we are number 1 organically, so we don’t exactly want to change that.  We are found by at least 110 other city names on page one. And we have more to risk with some serious changes now than to gain.

That explains a lot when you look at Craigslist, Reddit, Ebay and others.  Some of the risk is SEO based (you could lose your ranking).  Some of the risk is customers not being happy with a change.

There is a case study where eBay came up with design change the customers hated.  They put back the old design and never changed it. So if push comes to shove, as a web manager you are most likely to leave it as is!

Major Changes You Can’t Ignore

But there are some real risks to your website and web business as technology evolves without your site evolving.  The world changed dramatically in 15 years in online dating for instance.  You have to keep up with some of the critical changes or you are going to be out of business.  I can list about 10 online dating sites no longer around.

You just have to determine which technical changes are important and critical and which ones are not that critical.

For instance, did we need an online dating site with a login and membership for our event company?

It would have been nice, but we were fine without it.   Our customers did not need it.

Did we need a mobile app for our dating event company?

Actually, we were fine without a mobile app, even though every web guru, tech startup guy and their mother was crying up till recently you need a mobile app or you are out in the cold.   There are many of these potential technical directions and changes we could undertake, but the big two changes we can not afford to not keep up with are mobile ready and page speed.

Mobile Ready

This is a really a ten year old discussion.  When the first smart phone emerged, the very first smart phone people started to surf Pre-Dating.com.  About 4 years ago we recognized that our mobile traffic on Pre-Dating.com was growing by the day.   So, we decided to make a few key pages mobile ready and we have converted at least 50,000 event sales via smart phones since then.

Page Speed Comes A Knocking

And you would think page speed (The actual time it takes to load a page) would have always been a concern.  The answer is yes.  But it is now even more critical considering mobile requires faster speeds.

And in the US we don’t necessarily have the fastest connections on all our smart phones, yet we are beating the crap out of the networks with our smart phones and tablets!  So yes speed of a page load is important!

And I believe Google is ranking sites based on speed, somewhere in the Larry Page Rank, so its all part of getting found through nature search.  Plus people who have a long loading time on  your web page just leave!

So, I took a hard look at our web speed.  The first tool I used is the free tool here at Web Page Test:

http://www.webpagetest.org/

This is a real techies tool.  I use it to see if the problem with speed is at the first click or is it a javascript include, a plugin or some other issue like database query speeds.

And I started to find a bunch of new tools that were not around back when we started that are less technical, like this one by Google (Should be able to click on the text below):

Google PageSpeed Insights tool

Just stick your web page (any page URL on your site) into the box and click the Analyze button.

It comes back and says a bunch of things are not good, like often you don’t have a compression or browser caching deployed.  It also comes back and shows you what your mobile looks like and it defines a score on your mobile separate from your desktop users.

What I found fascinating is if you analyze almost any website through this Google PageSpeed Insights tool, like in this case Match.com, Yahoo.com, Huffington Post, Drudge Report and a thousand other websites out there, they all have problems with speed.  Even Apple.com sucks when it comes to speed. In fact, the entire web world is way behind on this.  In fact, it seems most big websites don’t care or don’t know they have issues and problems.

The entire web is now comprised of popular websites that couldn’t give a rats ass if it takes 10 seconds to load on your iPhone.

So, I shouldn’t feel so bad for our lowly speed dating site.

But, this also means if you run Google PageSpeed Insights and make the changes Google recommends, you will get a leg up on competitors.  So I started to make these changes.  And along the way I ran into all kinds of cobwebs of the Internet past and present that needed to be looked at and sometimes fixed.  It is a cornucopia of web issues…

A lot of us started to implement open source WordPress sites and we kind of left this kind of stuff to the plugins and the framework.  We just started writing our blog articles and not worrying about the HTML, CSS and everything in the kitchen sink.

We (who have been in the web world) for over 15 years already knew how critical these small details were for web page speed.  We just need a good tool to tell what is wrong!

So, let’s face it.  In the end, you need to research, read and get a PHD in web site speed to master this little baby of a problem.  I am thinking about blogging about all the issues I found and fixed.  In fact, check out http://pre-dating.com on your desktop or mobile and you will notice it is now lightning speed in most cases.  Well one of the secrets I will give away is local browser caching.  The first click may be slow, but then the browser caches it all and you end up fast on the second and every other click because or reused resources!

Have a great day!

Dan Gudema
dan@startuppop.com

This article was originally published on Linkedin under: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/web-page-performance-mysteries-life-dan-gudema?trk=pulse_spock-articles

2 Online Marketing Segments: Insecure Focused, Secure Unfocused

Back in 2001 I met up with Vince Gerlormine at the Association for Internet Professionals in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A few months later he asked if I could build a speed dating website for him that could run events in multiple cities, run by multiple event hosts. By mid-2002 we were in 15 cities and growing fast. Pre-Dating.com went on to be the largest speed dating business in the US, in over 80 markets and was sold in 2004 to Cupid.com.

One issue that I observed working with Vince was is he would often overload the home page with tons of details and he went on to write an enormous FAQs page. He was concerned about the customer not having enough information to make a decision to sign up. He had questions in there like “What should I Wear To The Event?”, “Where Should I Go Afterwards”, “What Happens If It Snows?”, etc., etc. And we also had several clicks till a person could actually purchase the speed dating event.

I told Vince that my preference would be to have the registration form right on the home page and to not have all this cluttered text and information and links on that home page, so that it would be clear to me how to buy.

So a few years later I realized that he and I had two differing ways of surfing a website and that is why we had a different opinion of the checkout process. In 2009 I was certified by Marketing Experiments with a Landing Page Optimization Certification and went through their quite amazing training on optimizing web forms and step by step usability methods. So, I do have a background in this area now. Back in 2001 I was simply the web developer. We can actually take our two ways of thinking and segment the market of surfers into Insecure Focused and Secure Unfocused. If you are going to segment and don’t know what they are, this is one way of segment and serving these two audiences. Years ago at another large ecommerce company we segmented on new vs. existing, which is another common way to go. But the Insecure Focused, Secure Unfocused is a psychographic we discovered, making it a good way to segment.

Insecure Focused

Insecure Focused are people that surf a website and have a lot of concerns about buying and need to have these issues overcome by selling the customer and providing enough information to get them to be “secure” about their feelings of buying. These are people who are concerned about the site being a rip off and not providing or living up to the standard that they are reading about. These people sometimes go as far as reading the terms on a website and they will read all the fine print. I am not sure of the % who fit this segment, because each site will be different. Though that would be an interesting number to figure out. Let’s just say that the Insecure Focused person most likely has to leave the website and think about buying before checking out the competition sites, the better business bureau and mulling over it in their bed overnight…

Secure Unfocused

Secure Unfocused people are just that. They are confident in taking a risk on a website, and generally have arrived at that website for a purpose that they knew in advance they would jump at. Basically think of these people as having tunnel vision. Their eyes lock on to an actionable part of the website page and if it makes sense they take action. People like me don’t read everything and if we do, we often miss some of the details. It is like the whole page on the site other than the actionable items gets fuzzy. Some people have laughed at me when I say to put an email box saying “get on our list” on their website, even if there is no reason to get on the list. These secure unfocused folks will jump on the list. I had been working on Websites.com for Verio/NTT corp and put a box on it like this and several months later we had a couple thousand emails. I am a secure unfocused person. I will basically not want to take the time to read everything. I am a sign up kind of guy. I don’t believe its worth my time to read all those terms and if the deal looks decent enough, I just jump in and get it. Thus, we end up with sites for Secure Unfocused people like Woot.com. One of my favorites.

So, as a web manager you have to say to yourself, where do my beliefs lie. If you are Insecure Focused, then you have to not just design a site you would use, you have to solve the problem for quickies like me who don’t want to read everything. If you are Secure Unfocused type of person, you have to understand that there are people who look at a big form box with fear and trepidation and will never put their email in… unless you coax them. You need to create a path for success for both types of visitors.

There are two mantras for site visitors to consider here, Insecure Focused and Secure Unfocused, in addition to a many other ways to segment. But overall this way is a very actionable way to design for both types of individuals and solve both paths towards successful conversion.