British news sites performed well during last night’s “Brexit” vote. Load times remained relatively steady as people flocked to online news outlets to follow the country’s referendum on leaving the European Union. Steady doesn’t necessarily mean good, though. The slowest sites took roughly seven times longer to load than the top performers. For users impatiently looking for updates on the outcome, where they checked made a big difference.
The Daily Mail’s desktop site took more than 20 seconds for pages to fully load as ballots were counted, while BBC and Sky News sites took less than 3 seconds. The fastest among the top five Alexa-ranked UK news sites, BBC and Sky News deviated little if at all from their performance over the previous six days. Meanwhile load times at DailyMail.com slowed from roughly 17 seconds to more than 25 seconds at one point early Friday morning – more than enough for users to notice, even if they were already used to slow performance.
The Guardian’s site performance, on the other hand, actually improved during the run-up to the announcement loading pages in roughly six seconds. The Daily Telegraph added about a second to its page load time, climbing toward 8 seconds during the same peak period.
This chart shows the median web page load times (document complete) in milliseconds for each of these sites during the seven-day span through Friday afternoon, June 24th in the UK. Times shown are Eastern US, five hours behind GMT.
It’s worth noting that this performance reflects the desktop experience without ad blocking. Especially in the case of the Daily Mail, ad content played the primary role in slowing load times. It’s possible that a growing number of regular visitors to these sites have responded to performance lags not by switching loyalties but by blocking ads. A recent Catchpoint study suggests that for most, it works: media sites generally delivered far better user experiences with ad blocking. For someone anxiously refreshing a news page for updates on a developing story like this one, blocking ads could change the user experience dramatically – but at the expense of the site’s revenue.