I believe the sentiment behind the statistic is great.
It tells sites that they have to adhere to a higher standard of performance, and that creating a bloated site full of heavy images and graphics, superfluous animations and flashy transitions goes against what users really want. It also sends a clear message to lazy site owners who have allowed their backend to become a mess of script and unused plugins that they need to clean up their act.
However, the more I think about the statistic, the more it bothers me. Essentially it’s saying that if I sat down 10 people in a room and let them loose on a website, four of them would flat out abandon the site if a page happened to take more than 3 seconds to load, regardless of the type content they were trying to access, device limitations and fluctuating connection speeds. Who are these people that have no patience for web content that isn’t delivered to them in the same amount of time it takes to watch half an Instagram Video?
The statistic in question is based on an Akamai study into the web page response times for e-commerce sites. So, straight away the context has changed from any web page to any web page on an e-commerce site.
The study was conducted through an online survey and based the feedback of 1,048 shoppers in the US. Although, I don’t know the complete specifics of how the survey was structured, there are a few issues with the way this study gathered its data.