Meet the data scientists who can make your website load in less than a second

Guest Blog: UWE Bristol's Jeremy Allen on how data company Taxonomics is reinventing how webpages work from its HQ in Somerset
19th May 2017

Contrary to common belief, the internet is slowing down. Although service providers offer us access to increased bandwidth (meaning the ‘pipe’ delivering packets of information is wider), this conduit is clogging up quicker as online usage grows.

“As you approach the one second mark for page loading, transaction returns start spiking”

 

“In a household today, there are a lot more people using devices, often at the same time, and this combined with the fact that our computers through Chrome and Google are doing a lot of talking with the home base, means there is more information blocking the pipeline,” says Liam McGee (pictured left). He is co-founder of Taxonomics, a technology company near Bath that helps e-commerce companies optimise and speed up their websites.

Eighteen months ago, Taxonomics applied for and received an Innovation 4 Growth (I4G) government grant through the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol). The fund supports SMEs in the South West to develop innovative products and technologies. This provided the technology company with the opportunity to set aside time for R&D to look at how to help its clients speed up and improve the efficiency of their e-commerce offering.

“We discovered that people building websites often don’t understand how the files are sent, while those who do, don’t understand how to build websites. They often don’t talk to each other and we saw that as an opportunity,” he recalls.

Just one second

Today, the firm claims it can reduce the time it takes to load up a webpage to less than a second, even on a relatively ‘modest’ internet connection. Research shows that such a fast speed can double or even triple conversion rates. “We have discovered that many companies spend money on reducing their page loading time from four to three seconds, but this doesn’t change conversion,” says Liam. “As you approach the one second mark, transaction returns start spiking,” he adds.

The I4G grant afforded Taxonomics the time to understand what slows a website down. To achieve this it developed a model that first takes a previous month’s worth of page-loads, and re-runs it as a simulation while making hundreds of thousands of improvement combinations to find those that have the best effect on the value of a website’s speed. This then forms a clear set of requirements for implementation in the real world.

The name ‘Taxonomics’ comes from a combination of ‘taxonomy’, the science of classification and naming), and ‘economics’. Another algorithm the company has developed is one that classifies all the words people type into search engines according to the concepts behind these search terms. E-commerce companies can use the algorithm to inform and prioritise online and offline merchandising, product and category naming, buying decisions, website and in-store organisation, new product development, mergers and acquisitions, and more.

Visualising website performance: Here Taxonomics has created a graphic representation of a client’s website’s performance

 

For the technology company, the I4G funding served as a catalyst to help it succeed in developing its algorithms in a fast-paced market. “The grant money came in at a critical time to the business and gave us the breathing space to test stuff out,” explains Liam.

The grant also enabled the company to expand its staff numbers from 10 to 19 in two years. “I4G allowed us to take risks we otherwise would not have taken,” says Liam. “We were therefore able to grow faster.”

The company is now finishing its research period and is ready for commercialisation. Already the National Health Service (NHS) is using one of its systems to help it decide the way in which it presents its website information. Other customers include one of the world’s largest private equity firms, and one of the UK’s top seven ‘elite’ e-commerce retailers, both of whom are taking the issue of speed, and its huge revenue increase potential, very seriously.

By doing this, they hope to be one step ahead of an internet that sometimes drags its feet.

You can see more about what the company are doing at the Taxonomics website and by following them on Twitter here: @Taxonomics. If you are interested in seeing if an I4G R&D grant could help your tech business, you can see more about them here: Innovation 4 Growth government grants.

Main image: Doug Laughlen (CEO of Taxonomics) in front of another visual representation called a value landscape: dark areas show a website’s low performance, large areas show high value.