Slow page load time is the number 1 reason why people leave web sites.
Even if you think you've got a great site, that's well written, interesting and has a nice layout, if pages are slow to load most people simply will not hang about long enough for them to appear. And they certainly won't browse around your site going through the same interminable wait over and over again.
It doesn't matter how good your site is, if you make a new visitor wait too long, chances are they won't. They'll never see all your hard work, and neither will you see anything for the marketing time, effort and cost it took for you to get them there!
The very nature of the Internet adds a sense of urgency to the online experience of most users. The majority of people online are fairly new to the 'Net. They are overwhelmed by this exciting new world they've discovered.
There's so much to see and so little time in which to see it. The cost of time online for those who live outside the US and central Europe, where ISP charges and call rates can be substantially higher, contributes to these feelings. They become Speedfreaks
I usually have two or three browser windows open at a time, so I always have a fresh page to look at whilst others are loading. If you get a visitor like me the page load time won't matter. But like many that make their living online, perhaps yourself included, I am fortunate to have the luxury of a large monitor, many surfers don't. Also, in my experience, few surfers are comfortable jumping between windows in that way. Think about the average user's experience, not your own.
Everything on your web page adds to the page load time. Every single thing. Remember that. By far the greediest of the byte gobbler's are background audio, large sized or poorly optimized graphics (especially if animated) and Java applets.
So do yourself a favour and cut out all the unnecessary stuff like this unless you happen to be selling something directly connected to it. That might be the case with graphics for a graphic design web site, for example. But even then, my advice is to keep it to the bare minimum on your home page.
Get them in the front door first, once they're safely inside then you can show them how beautifully you've decorated your house!
For the graphics you have to have (and we all need some), make sure the file sizes are as small as possible by compressing them to the point that any further reduction would result in distortion. If you don't know anything about this, don't worry. There are a few online services that can do this for you. Search at your favorite engine for "image compression" or "gif compression."
Alternatively, there are many software applications you can buy that will automatically do this and many other image creation and manipulation tasks (like making animated banners). This latter option may work out cheaper for you in the long term and saves a lot of time, but as always, decide what would be the best for you in your situation.
Don't put anything on your home page that doesn't have an important reason for being there. You're reading this because you want to make money online, right? So just take a minute to examine the elements that make up your page and ask yourself for each "Will this help me to make money?" If the answer is "No," then bin it.
Only give space to things that will increase your bottom line. Bear in mind however that some items can add to your site's success and profitability in indirect ways, depending on your business. For example, a chat client could be used as a means of allowing visitors to interact directly with your staff. This may be with sales or customer support personnel depending on your product and focus.
Personally I don't subscribe to the generally held view that visitors don't like to scroll the page and so it must kept short. In fact, I'm inclined to believe it's a load of rubbish! People use scroll bars in their word processors every day. And I don't care what anyone says – if you find the content sufficiently interesting you'll keep on scrolling down that page.
I'm sure I am not alone in hating sites that spread information over many short pages. I feel like I'm constantly waiting for pages to load. I feel that the site owner is inconsiderate, or trying to get extra banner impressions on my time. I often get fed up and leave.
But – and this is a big but – your homepage is different. It must load quickly and everything on it adds to it's download time, remember?
For this reason don't make your home page too long. I recommend you stick to between one and one-and-a-half screen lengths unless the page is almost entirely text, in which case you can safely increase on this.