One way to put the e-commerce delay question into context: Remember shopping in a major mall in mid-December. How patient and cooperative were drivers poised to pounce in the parking lot? How about those about to tackle a pile of 70-percent-off merchandise? "The holiday customers level of patience is limited," said Roopak Patel, senior Internet analyst for Keynotes public services division. "Their attention span cant go beyond two to three seconds. Thats what the Web has done: Its reset expectations."As more users flock to e-commerce, crooks do the same. To read how some retailers are trying to protect themselves, click here. Retailers looking for tips to accelerate performance need to look far beyond different hardware and software improvements, Patel said. His suggestion: Focus on site design (especially data placement) and on the search engine. Thats where the biggest return will come from, he said. "Its not just a matter of selecting the right tools. Make sure that your site has no extraneous information. Do some rearranging to put the most relevant stuff way out front. If I make my site easily navigable, users will come back day after day," Patel said. "You must also make sure that your search is more effective and test your back end so see that it can support" expected traffic. CompUSAs Hurlebaus said his site deployed technology this year to accelerate search, partly by incorporating a customers shopping history to be able to retrieve saved searches more quickly. CompUSA also focused on making the checkout process shorter and easier. "We reformatted our checkout process, which made it easier for the customers to see where they were in the process, and we removed two of our processing pages," he said. "Our credit approval process has now moved from about 12 seconds to about 3 seconds." Faster, easier service? Thats enough to get some consumers to put their retailer on their holiday card list.Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at Evan_Schuman@ziffdavis.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on technologys impact on retail.