At Yottaa, we measure things. Sometimes we do it for fun. This week, we analyzed the site speed of more than 200 Boston-area startups.  We looked at which ones excel at web performance, which ones need improvement, and the biggest factors that slow down these particular sites.

Most startups know that slow web pages hurt business. They frustrate users and degrade key metrics like abandon rates, page views/visit, and conversions. On the other hand, a fast site improves engagement, conversions, and even search engine rankings.

While there are several metrics worth measuring, one of the most critical is Time-to-Interact – the length of time it takes before a user can interact with the page (type into a field, click on a link, etc).

Now, even if your site appears to perform well when tested from your developer’s machine, that’s almost certainly not the whole story. To really characterize a site’s performance, you have to rigorously test its performance across multiple variables – geographies, browsers, connectivities – collecting a statistically valid set of samples along the way.

So that’s just what we did. We ran the 200 sites through a rigorous battery of tests using our free site monitoring service.

The Results

In the chart below you can see the average time to interact for the 20 slowest and 20 fastest Boston startups. These averages are across geographies, browsers, and connectivities.

Slowest 20 Sites Load Time (s) Fastest 20 Sites Load Time (s)
37.0s
1.1s
20.6s
Verdict Advantage
www.verdictadvantage.com
1.4s
19.2s
Uspin.me
www.uspin.me
1.6s
17.7s
1.6s
16.0s
1.8s
15.6s
1.9s
14.8s
1.9s
Academic Room
www.academicroom.com
14.2s
joust.io
www.joust.io
1.9s
MeYou Health
www.meyouhealth.com
13.8s
2.1s
13.5s
2.2s
13.3s
2.4s
12.9s
YouGotListings
www.yougotlistings.com
2.4s
Linkable Networks
www.linkablenetworks.com
12.9s
Ginger.io
www.ginger.io
2.5s
12.4s
2.5s
Next Step Living
www.nextstepliving.com
12.3s
2.5s
11.4s
2.5s
11.3s
2.6s
Democracy.com
www.democracy.com/
11.2s
GatherEducation
www.gathereducation.com
2.7s
11.2s
2.7s
11.2s
2.7s

What Creates Poor Site Performance

Some sites on the list are fast because they’re small with very few moving parts. But what makes slow sites slow? There are some easy techniques you can use to find out. In our analysis of these sites, we found poor performance was due to the usual suspects:

  • Lots of assets on the page. This can be mitigated by reducing the # of requests through (1) combining scripts and images; (2) combining images with sprites; and employing data URIs to embed the images directly in the HTML file.
  • Large assets. This can be mitigated by reducing the asset weight through (1) using Gzip compression; (2) script minification; and (3) using lossy or lossless image compression.
  • Serialization. This can be mitigated by parallel processing through (1) loading 3rd party assets asynchronously; (2) using domain sharding; and (3) using intelligent script loaders.

To fix performance problems, you can either manually implement these optimization techniques, or use web services that automatically apply them (companies like Yottaa, Strangeloop, and Akamai).

You can see the data for the sites we analyzed below. It’s a pretty clear story: Boston sites with lots of domain requests and 3rd party widgets, assets, and Javascript are slow.

Large Number of Domain Requests and 3rd Party Widgets

Number of Domains vs. Time to Interact

Large Number of Assets

Asset Count vs. Time to Interact

JavaScript: Size & Count

JavaScript Size vs. Time to Interact
JavaScript Count vs. Time to Interact

More Information

To see how your own site stacks up on these metrics, just set up a free site monitoring account here. There’s no time limit on the account, so you’ll get plenty of information.

For detailed information on how your site compares to others in your industry, get a full Website Benchmarking report here.

Finally, if you’re a data junkie, you can access the raw file of all the data we analyzed for this post here!