Web site crunches numbers for business benefit

Armed with information pulled from 11 million surfers, officials behind a new Web site say they can crunch the numbers and rank the performance of the five most popular Web pages.

RealEndUser.com rates search engines on the basis of how long it takes for a page to load, when and where users abandon a page, what pages draw attention and the total bytes received per page. While Yahoo was rated the fastest, Lycos won out over all with the lowest user stop page rate. The poorest performer, according to the site? Microsoft’s MSN.

“If Lycos or Yahoo took even three quarters as long as it takes MSN to load the page, they’d lose 70 per cent of their audience,” said Bruce Linton, president and co-founder of Ottawa-based webHancer Corp., the firm that created RealEndUser.com. He said webHancer will publish results on a bi-weekly basis, usually on sites with themes – from sports to news media to major Web-based events.

Web site owners can subscribe to the service and get detailed information about their own pages, Linton said his firm’s findings provide valuable information to Web site owners, detailing what turns off a potential customer.

“If you look at any one of these sites, some of them have an extremely sensitive audience, so that if the page load time increases by 10 per cent, their abandonment rate might increase by 30, 40 or 50 per cent,” he said. “When you think about that, those are people hitting ‘stop’ and going to your competitor.”

Karen O’Neill, director of enterprise application services for the New York branch of management consulting firm Ernst & Young, said when users load a Web page, a two-second difference between competing sites really doesn’t matter. “Once you get adequate performance, whatever that means to somebody, after that I think value takes over,” she said, adding that most companies have enough experience today to avoid building slow Web sites.

That doesn’t mean a site with a long load time are guaranteed hits if the content is top-notch, speed does matter. “It’s one of the first things a person sees about a company,” O’Neill said.

Ernst & Young in Canada is at http://www.ey.com/global/gcr.nsf/Canada/Welcome_2