Hold Up, Wait a Millisecond – How Response Time Impacts Your Website

It’s no secret, attention spans are shrinking.

Over the past 20 years, adult attention spans have dropped by more than 30%, and unfortunately, there’s no sign of this trend changing. 

This means we need to take a step back and re-evaluate our websites based on how people will actually interact with it.

A recent Google study showed that 53% of mobile users will bounce from a page that takes more than three seconds to load. Think about that for a second (or three). That means everything going on behind the scenes of your website – content personalization, analytics, images, text, everything has to be loaded and ready to go in three seconds or a significant portion of your visitors are likely to leave your site.

With this in mind, it’s important to think about a major factor that impacts the overall speed of your website – response time.

Response Time (or latency), is the round-trip time it takes for a request (such as a click on a certain page) to be processed and returned back to the end-user. 

Why Is Response Time So Important?

Your website doesn’t operate alone, it requires a wide variety of applications running behind the scenes to provide the overall experience. Everything from your website’s popup chat to your website analytics, personalization, and more all require a constant transfer of data back and forth to perform their tasks. 

When a webpage loads, a request for data is sent from the webpage that a user sees, through the data layer, to your apps and back again which looks like this: 

latency
The entire call-and-response process it takes to get data from your apps happens in the fraction of a second it takes for a webpage to load, so every millisecond counts. If even one step in the process lags behind, it causes a slowdown of the entire process leading to prolonged page load times and detracting from the overall user experience.

However, the impact response time can have is also dependent on what functionality your website supports. For example, if you’re personalizing content on your site in real-time, response time will be much more important than someone who is simply doing website analytics because the page load time will be directly tied to the latency of your personalization app. If your use case includes real-time functionality, you should look for companies with response times that are sub 100 milliseconds round trip (more on that in our article on 10 Questions to Ask Your IP Data Vendor). This will allow them to complete their information transfer process without impacting the load time of your website. 

Tag Managers

Tag managers are tools that allow you to manage and deploy application tags on your site without having to change the website’s code. They control the activation of different tags across your website and make sure the right tags activate at the right time. 

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Tags

The tag manager is in charge of keeping the tags firing smoothly, but when it comes to a website’s latency it’s the tags themselves that can mean the difference between a “slow” website or a fast one. 

When it comes to speed, two types of tags matter: 

  • Synchronous tags work like a relay race. When a page begins to load, each tag must complete its task before the next one can start. This means that if even one tag in the system is delayed the whole page has to wait to load. 
  • Asynchronous tags are the opposite. As soon as the page begins to load, all the tags fire at once and complete their tasks at varying speeds. This means that even if one tag is slower than the rest, it won’t slow down the page load as a whole. 

Asynchronous tags are a website’s saving grace. These tags drastically reduce the impact of a tag’s slower than average response time and reduces the overall latency of your website. 

With attention spans at an all-time low and the number of website applications increasing almost daily, it’s more important than ever to make sure your website is as fast as possible to keep your visitor’s limited attention and provide the best possible user experience. By implementing asynchronous tags within your tag manager you’ll be able to mitigate the impact of slow tags and give your website a crucial boost in speed.