In a day, we flip through ~130 web pages, waiting around 6 seconds for each to load.
This means you spend a staggering 13 minutes hovering over a screen idly every day – and over 17 minutes if you’re on your phone.
It’s no surprise that web performance optimization (WPO) continues to push the envelope in search of better ways to win back some of the lost time. Or at least make sure we wait as little as possible.
Let’s flip through the most notable achievements from the past 12 months and prepare to leverage the subtle trends we see coming in 2024!
In 2023 alone, the web's performance has undergone a substantial evolution, notably evidenced by the impressive advancements in Core Web Vitals (CWV).
The metrics representing loading speed, interaction responsiveness, and layout stability have set new benchmarks for website performance.
A true testament to this progress is the staggering 10,000 years of waiting time saved – a monumental achievement stemming from the enhancements made to Core Web Vitals.
This massive reduction in waiting time spans across desktop and mobile platforms highlighting the substantial impact these improvements have had on user experience across the entire web.
Moreover, the data from HTTP Archive speaks volumes about the increasing adoption and implementation of Core Web Vitals.
Websites passing the Core Web Vitals assessment have seen a significant upsurge, reflecting a 6% increase in 2023 alone. This leap signals a collective effort from web developers, site owners, and products worldwide to prioritize and optimize their sites for a smoother, faster, and more user-friendly browsing experience for all.
Currently, there are over 6,5 million eligible origins in the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX).
At the start of 2023, 41.8% of websites passed Core Web Vitals. Since then, we have seen steady growth, where desktop pass rates have gone up to 47.4%.
How were these spectacular results achieved? Let’s see what developments Chrome and the wider ecosystem introduced.
Major advancements came straight from the Google Chrome development team:
Results: BFCache’s hit rate has improved month-over-month on both Android (3.6%) and Desktop (1.8%)
Results: Led to a 6/10ms (0.4/1%) median LCP improvement on Android/Desktop and an improvement in cross-origin LCP by ~60ms on both Android and Desktop. The launch also resulted in a 0.08% Content Ad revenue increase.
Results: Page loads via typing URLs directly in the omnibox got a 500-700ms (14-25%) median LCP improvement with prerender, moving global median LCP across all navigations by 6.4ms.
Results: Led to improvements in Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) and Interaction to Next Paint (INP)
Results: Seen improvements to scheduling and contention, which improved INP by 5% and LCP by 2% in the last 6 months.
In 2023, under the dedicated efforts of the Core Performance team and contributors, WordPress made substantial leaps in improving Core Web Vitals pass rates.
8.25% for desktop and 8.13% for mobile, to be exact.
One of the main goals in the roadmap for the year was to empower site owners to pass the most challenging CWV metric in WP core – LCP.
Many improvements in the core focus on improving server response time, running more efficient databases, improving JS and CSS delivery, and optimizing images:
WordPress 6.3 loads 27% faster for block themes and 18% faster for classic themes, compared to WordPress 6.2, based on the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) metric.
Breaking it down even further, we see definitive improvement across all Core Web Vitals metrics on mobile WordPress:
As a solution helping 180K+ WordPress site owners achieve great user experience, we at NitroPack are proud to have contributed to CWV improvement on the platform. Prerendering links via the speculation rules API, we’ve seen an 80% LCP improvement and 55% INP improvement in prerendered pages compared to those without any speculative loading.
As part of the Chrome Aurora project, where Chrome and open-source web frameworks collaborate, we saw successful partnerships with Next.js, Angular, and Nuxt in releasing performance-focused features like:
In 2022, Next.js reports pass rates increased from 20.4% to 27.3%. Angular pass rates have gone up from 7.6% to 13.2%, and Nuxt pass rates went from 15.8% to 20.2%.
In real life, these new features translated into notable Core Web Vitals improvements for enterprise companies like Land’s End and CareerKarma.
After switching to NgOptimizedImage, Land's End championed a 40% LCP improvement on mobile in Lighthouse lab tests and a 75% improvement in LCP on desktop. CareerKarma's LCP, on the other hand, was reduced by 24% when switching to next/script's web worker mode.
— Stoyan Stefanov, Creator of perfplanet.com, ex-Yahoo, Published JS Author
Core Web Vitals’ importance in relation to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has long been discussed.
In the wake of April’s updates to the page experience guidelines, a definitive answer is that Core Web Vitals are not a singular ranking factor but rather part of a system that contributes to page experience evaluations.
“The connection between Core Web Vitals and performance in SEO is still hotly debated, with many people suggesting it’s rarely something that’ll directly affect rankings. But I’m happy to say that I’m seeing more and more organizations prioritizing speed improvements, regardless. A faster site means happier users, reduced friction, better eco credentials, and more revenue.”
— Jono Alderson, World-leading SEO Expert (ex-Head of SEO @Yoast)
It’s important to note that relevance remains the deciding factor when ranking a page, as explained by John Muller (Google Search Advocate):
“If website A is faster than website B, but B is more relevant to the search user’s query, website B would still outrank A.”
In a Twitter thread, he also highlighted that “...Core Web Vitals is more than a random ranking factor, it’s also something that affects your site’s usability after it ranks (when people actually visit).”
During his presentation at the Google I/O Extended event in Sydney in June 2023, Tamas Piros also confirmed the importance of Core Web Vitals, saying “... if your site loads slowly, that is going to have a negative impact on your search page ranking results.”
In terms of SEA (Search Engine Advertising), user experience directly correlates with the quality score of your ads. Real-world examples include:
In 2023, businesses continued to adopt Core Web Vitals optimization to elevate their bottom line where a 0.1s improvement in load time means:
The most recent WPO case study shows Carpe’s results after optimizing their website for better user experience – 52% improvement in Largest Contentful Paint and 41% in Cumulative Layout Shift, a 10% increase in traffic, a 5% increase in online store conversion rate, and a 15% increase in revenue.
During a webinar with Google on “Core Web Vitals for Your Business” in September 2023, NitroPack shared learnings from in-house studies linking user experience and speed to specific user behavior patterns:
We see more businesses shifting from the idea of speed as the end goal and more toward improving how users interact with their websites. Tackling Core Web Vitals issues goes well beyond backend tinkering. In fact, it has found a well-deserved place among business KPIs as well as in growth reports.
“On top of continuing the existing trend in improvements for Core Web Vitals, I really think 2024 could be the year of the “instant web” with Chrome’s Speculation Rules API hitting the mainstream and making prerender an easy addition for many sites. This will allow more seamless experiences, especially coupled with the multi-page View Transitions API.”
— Barry Pollard, Developer Relations Engineer @Google Chrome
Let’s see which trends will shape 2024 as not only faster, but near instant.
This is how many websites pass LCP on mobile compared to 94.2% for FID and 77.2% for CLS. The challenging nature of the LCP metric stems from the complexity of the time spent in loading the largest contentful element.
In 2022, Philip Walton proposed a new way of breaking down this time:
This allows for granular measuring and helps site owners identify bottlenecks as well as which optimizations would be most effective to improve the LCP score. In November 2023, Estela Franco shared the results from research in milliseconds.
The problem? Resource load delay.
This means we need to focus on loading the largest contentful resource sooner rather than optimizing for load duration.
✦ We predict...
In 2024, developers and site owners alike will focus on improving the discoverability of the LCP element via resource hints and excluding it from lazy loading altogether.
Many have already speculated whether or not the sunset of the FID metric will have a big impact on CWV pass rates.
The answer is yes.
Pass rates will drop once INP kicks in (especially on mobile), and developers will have to roll up their sleeves to make sure their CWV assessments stay green.
INP, however, is a great step forward in understanding how users interact with our websites. Since it measures all interactions during a session, site owners will gain more insight into where most delays are happening.
✦ We predict...
In 2024, developers will increasingly leverage scheduler.yield() and Long Animation Frames APIs to break up and reduce long tasks so the main thread is ready to accommodate an interaction without delays.
With the sophistication of web performance optimization comes the need for improved understanding of what this actually means to site owners.
In 2023, we saw a rising curiosity in how Core Web Vitals fit in the grander business context as a whole.
CrUX, HTTP Archive, Web Almanac, WPO Stats, in-house and public reports, and business insight tools from independent services and plugins – all dedicated to crunching the numbers and providing transparency to site owners’ efforts toward better user experience.
✦ We predict...
2024 will mark a significant step forward in understanding real user experiences on websites, making Core Web Vitals an essential metric for business owners and ecommerce merchants connecting it directly to their bottom line.
“Looking ahead to 2024, I see a positive shift in how we approach web performance. We're moving away from just looking at lab data and focusing more on the actual user experience. It's an exciting time with lots of new ideas coming up to make websites faster for everyone. At NitroPack, we're really happy to be part of this change, helping to make the web a better place for users.”
— Georgi Petrov, CEO and co-founder @NitroPack
The AI boom has impacted the whole world and has many business owners thinking about the opportunities it can unlock.
In fact, in 2023 alone, 35% of companies are already leveraging AI in their businesses, with financial services, healthcare, retail, and manufacturing taking the lead in AI adoption.
In web performance optimization, we’ve already seen the first advancements made with the speculation rules API by Chrome. Whether it’s used to automate tasks, improve workflows, and create new services and products, AI in the WPO industry will empower site owners to meet the rising demand for better user experience and loading speed.
Its application in areas like predictive analytics, pattern recognition, and personalized content delivery has significantly improved user experiences.
✦ We predict...
In 2024, AI will be a promising new chapter in optimization strategies – from predictive analytics and pattern recognition to anticipatory functionalities, the advancements will help us understand user behavior better and answer the user needs faster.
As 2024 approaches, the focus remains on sustaining this momentum.
Continued advancements and early adoption of the right web performance optimization techniques will pave the way for an even faster and more efficient web experience.
Here’s to a fast 2023, and let’s all work toward an even faster 2024!
Lora has 7+ years of experience developing in-depth, specialized content for SaaS companies in the CEE region. She has sourced and collaborated with subject-matter experts on site speed optimization for WordPress, Core Web Vitals, and the future of web performance. "If you can't explain it to a 7-year-old, you've not researched it well enough" is Lora's guiding principle when publishing professional insight for complex technical topics.