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Why fast websites matter in higher ed

Joel Goodman
/ 3 min read

It might not seem as impactful as well-produced videos and engaging animations, but it has the biggest effect on whether a website visitor becomes an applicant or not. I’m talking about how fast your institution’s website loads.

Numerous studies detail how a fast website increases conversion rates and generates more revenue. And it’s common knowledge that the faster a website is, the better it ranks in search engine result pages. As predictive text AI and Large Language Models continue to be included in and displace traditional search engines, better user experiences (including site speed) will dictate whether or not your content and website gets surfaced in answers.

Do you know whether your institution’s website is fast or not?

Introducing SpeedyU

Bravery has created the most comprehensive leaderboards for college and university websites across the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand that have ever existed. Each week, we run speed and accessibility scans on every website and regenerate our leaderboards.

We call it SpeedyU.

Track your website’s improvement over time, see how your competitors are faring, and increase your conversion rates. Your institution’s profile page shows where you’re excelling and what exactly needs improvement.

How to read the scores

SpeedyU is built on top of Google Lighthouse using four key metrics: Performance, Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO. These metrics are scored based on mobile device limitations. We chose mobile devices as they’re often times the lowest common denominator across location, socio-economic conditions, and generational groups.

Three scores from SpeedyU — 75 Performance, 100 Accessibility, 54 Best Practices, and 100 SEO.

Incidentally, if your site performs well on mobile devices, it will almost always perform better on desktop-class technology. You’re aiming for 100 in any given metric, but you’re looking good as long as you’re between 91-100.


The Performance score is calculated from 0–100 based on a weighted average of Core Web Vitals and several other metrics, with higher weights for more important metrics like Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). Basically, if the page is visible and usable quickly, your Performance score will be higher.


While not as robust as a tailored accessibility audit, this score takes into account technical accessibility standards. This includes whether images contain alt text, how well buttons and links are described, and how well the site works with screen readers. We also include an AXE accessibility scan to assist in tiebreakers.

Best Practices

This metric assesses whether your website is built to modern web standards. This refers to the method of hosting, how well the pages are coded to current HTML, CSS, and JavaSript specs, and if you’re efficiently caching and serving your content.


A lot of content strategy goes into SEO, so our scores are limited to the technical aspects of SEO. This includes things like whether or not it’s mobile-responsive, if any existing structured data is valid, and if a title and description are set (among other things).

What’s next?

Bravery offers a range of services to help unearth exactly what needs to be fixed. A Benchmark Performance audit breaks down our SpeedyU findings and prioritizes what you should fix first. A Website Strategy Guide digs deeper, expanding our recommendations to content strategy, user experience, and information architecture. Or we can create a custom research package and improvement plan.

If you’re up for a DIY project, you could look at some common things we see in the industry. How modern is your hosting provider? Do you have properly sized images being served in the right formats? Are you deferring the loading of big assets like images and videos? Are you using any CSS frameworks like Bootstrap?

You might consider a faster Content Delivery Network (CDN) with Edge Image Optimization. Or you might start assessing how much your CMS is contributing to your slow site speeds.