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You find a stock, go to your broker's site, click through to make a trade, and get ... the hourglass.

One way to help skirt the wait is to stick with a speedy site.

Keynote.com tests various brokers on this aspect of reliability: whether a customer can access a site with reasonable assurance and in a timely manner.

In the next several weeks,

TheStreet.com

will be providing Keynote's data on a regular basis. The following data were released this morning and cover the Nov. 13 to Nov. 17 time frame.

Before jumping to switch brokers, note that Keynote doesn't measure what's probably most important to an investor's bottom line: strength of executions. That is, it doesn't test how quickly brokers execute a trade and whether they're getting the best price for the investor. That information is not yet disclosed in a measurable fashion, though the

Securities and Exchange Commission

recently approved rules that will require better disclosure starting in April.

Keynote measures speed just short of executing the actual trade. And that's useful, too. "If someone gives you the absolute best price but you cannot get into the site, that doesn't help you very much," says Daniel D. Todd, chief technologist at Keynote.

Keynote's results are based on measurements performed by Keynote's testing service during market trading hours, Monday through Friday. Measurements are taken every 15 minutes from 10 metropolitan locations throughout the country. Keynote enters the online broker's Web site through its home page and logs into the trading area. Once there, Keynote obtains a stock quote, creates an order to buy a stock, and logs out before confirming the order. (For more detail of what goes into Keynote's testing methodology, click

here.)

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Keynote's most recent data show that

DLJdirect

was the quickest online broker site, coming in with a transaction performance time of 4.81 seconds. What that means is Keynote was able to navigate DLJ's site, short of clicking the "execute" button, in just under five seconds -- almost twice as fast as the nearest competitor.

DLJdirect says such results are not arrived at by chance. "We actually spend a lot of time developing the Web site. We design our site specifically for high performance. It is a combination of page design and infrastructure design," says Glenn Tongue, president of DLJdirect. "We take it very seriously."

Firstrade

ranked last in terms of speed. Firstrade was not immediately available to comment on the data.

These performance results don't mean DLJdirect has the

best

all-around online brokerage biz or that Firstrade has the

worst

. It simply means you can get to where you need to be in the quickest amount of time. For an entire range of factors investors consider in choosing an online broker, see our recent reader

online broker survey. That said, because a site's Web pages are the main entry to its services, Keynote's performance index for online brokers is a helpful place start.