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Optimising your website performance can be a great way to improve the user experience

Many things shape the experience of users. However, nothing is more likely to drive users away than a poorly performing website.

We like to think of ourselves as guardians of the user experience. Why then, when we talk to clients, do we tend to neglect the non-visual elements that have a profound effect on the experience. Clients love beautiful pictures, and as designers, we do nothing to dissuade them.

In fact, in many ways, developers have a greater impact on the experience than we do. Look at the role of performance in the user experience. Still, we do not tend to talk about that with clients. We know they will not be interested and we are not willing to put the hard work in to convince them to care. However, we should.

After all a slow website:

  • damages findability,
  • increases the time to complete a task,
  • reduces user satisfaction,
  • endangers accessibility,
  • undermines understanding of your products and services.

Still not sure you can convince clients to take performance seriously? Okay, let's look a little deeper.

 

1. Poor performance damages findability

Google has made their position over site performance clear. The faster the site, the better the ranking, especially on mobile.

Findability is a compelling argument to make for performance with clients. They care about their rankings, and we care about users finding the content they need.

However, that is not the only reason a client should care.

Google have made it clear they consider performance critical.

 

2. Poor performance increases the time to complete a task

The longer it takes a user to do something the more likely they are to give up. That damages conversion rates.

A one-second delay in load time leads to a 7% drop in conversion and an 11% fewer page views. In fact, a staggering 1 in 4 people will abandon a page that takes longer than 4 seconds to load. What is more, things are even worse on mobile with 74% of users giving up if a page takes 5 seconds or more to load. (Source)

Poor performance has a significant effect on conversion and page views.

Each new page that a user has to visit to complete a task only exacerbates this problem, something that also provides an opportunity. With users so biased towards fast loading pages, a site optimised for speed has a competitive advantage.

However, this is not only about conversion; it is also about perceptions.

 

3. Poor performance reduces user satisfaction

Users have a more positive feeling about fast loading pages. A fast website gives a sense of progress. The user feels they are moving quickly towards their goal and that increases satisfaction, another metric your clients should consider.

A 1-second delay in page load will decrease customer satisfaction by about 16%. Worst still 79% of users who are dissatisfied with a website’s performance are less likely to buy from the same site again. (Source)

However, poor performance and reduced satisfaction will not only damage customer satisfaction. They also have a knock on effect. They hurt your brand as a whole. That is because 44% of users will tell their friends about a bad experience online.

Poor performance can drive users away and damage your brand.

Of course, none of this is an issue if the user is unable to access the content at all.

 

4. Poor performance endangers accessibility

Performance is not just a conversion issue. It is about more than users being impatient. It can prevent users accessing your content. A poor performing website can timeout preventing the page loading. Even a failure of a web font or javascript file to load can make content inaccessible. These failures are why progressive enhancement is still important, despite claims otherwise.

Performance is a particular problem over cellular connections or in developing countries. Then, of course, there is the dreaded hotel wifi or rural areas where connectivity is slow.

Finally, there are those using assistive technologies like screen readers or those with cognitive disabilities. These people are particularly sensitive to performance issues. The temptation is to dismiss these audiences, but remember, these people have significant spending power.

In fact research indicates UK retailers could be missing out on £11.75bn in revenue by ignoring the needs of disabled users. Nearly three-quarters of disabled online consumers (71%) will click away from websites that they find difficult to use due to the effect of their disability.

However, that is not all. Poor performance also threatens a user's understanding of your products and services.

 

5. Poor performance undermines understanding

According to Aberdeen Group, each 1 second added to load time leads to users viewing 11% fewer pages. The fewer pages users visit, the less understanding they have of your products or services. Poor understanding means that they could miss important information. Information about the product that can cause all kinds of problems further down the line.

I am not just talking about lost sales either. For example, if a user misses some important aspect of what you are going to deliver, it could lead to increased support costs and more returns. These are factors that erode profit margins.

This kind of confusion also has knock-on effects. It further lowers satisfaction and leads to misinformation about your products beyond your site.

 

A no-brainer!

I would hope by now the benefits of focusing on performance are clear. It not only improves the user experience, but it also makes sound business sense. In fact, if I had a choice between improving a user interface or increasing performance I would focus on performance. That is because poor performance has the potential to undermine every aspect of the experience, while the user interface focuses primarily on usability and brand perception.

Don’t misunderstand me; visual design matters a lot. I know some of you will disagree with my assessment and in truth, it is not as black and white as I am painting it. What I am trying to drive home is that we should not treat performance as a second class citizen just because we cannot see the results of time invested in it in the same way. What happens behind the scenes is just as important as the visuals and we need to persuade clients of that.

This article was originally posted at:
https://boagworld.com/usability/performance-ux/

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Call to action (CTA)

A call to action is a marketing term that refers to a prompt that invokes a response leading to a sale. When referring to a call to action (CTA) in the digital design world we usually mean the interactive element that leads to the next step in the experience - something that needs to be clicked or tapped.

User testing

User testing refers to a technique used in the design process to evaluate a product, feature or prototype with real users. There are several reasons why you might want to undergo usability testing, the most common is that it allows the design team to identify friction in a user experience they are designing, so that it can be addressed before being built or deployed.

WYSIWYG

WYSIWYG (pronounced WIZ-ee-wig) is an acronym for "What You See Is What You Get". It helps identify an an interface that allows user input resulting in an output that is rendered in a similar way. For example; a word processor application interface might resemble a piece of paper,so when printed the user can see how the output will appear.

Content Management System

A content management system (CMS) is an tool that allows a website editor/administrator to manage the content that is displayed. Websites are made of HTML and CSS to create pages. Pages can be hard-coded but would require technical development skills to make changes. A CMS usually allows a person without coding knowledge to amend existing and add new content to a website using a WYSIWYG interface.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design refers to a web page that dynamically adapts its layout to fit the size and orientation of the device on which it is viewed. A responsive design allows for a more optimised user experience across desktop and laptop computers as well as smartphones and tablets of varying sizes.

User Stories

User stories allow the functionality of a product or service to be expressed as written descriptions of an experience as seen from the users perspective. The writing of user stories creates a list of design and development tasks to complete in order to create any required functionality.

User Interface

A user interface (UI) is a conduit between human and computer interaction - the space where a user will interact with a computer or machine to complete tasks. The purpose of a UI is to enable a user to effectively control a computer or machine they are interacting with, and for feedback to be received in order to communicate effective completion of tasks.

Personas

A persona in UX Design is the characterisation of a user who represents a segment of your target audience. On a project you might create any number of personas to be representative of a range of user needs and desires. The solutions you design must answer these needs in order to deliver value to your target audience.

Card sorting

A great, reliable, inexpensive method for discovering patterns in how users would expect to find content or functionality. Card sorting is used to test the taxonomy of data with a group of subjects, usually to help inform the creation of the information architecture, user flow, or menu structure on a project.

Brainstorming

A technique used to generate ideas around a specific topic. Often done in groups, but can be done individuals. The process usually involves writing down all ideas around a topic onto paper, a whiteboard or stickies often implying some kind of association.

Minimum Viable Product

An MVP is a product that has the minimum set of features to prove the most essential hypothesis for a product. Businesses building a new product can create a Minimum Viable Product to prove that an idea is viable and warrants further investment. A further benefit being that the next stage of development can be informed by feedback obtained from testing that MVP.

Sitemap

A sitemap is a diagrammatic representation of a hierarchical system. It usually depicts the parent-sibling relationship between pages in a website, showing how sub pages might be arranged underneath their parent groupings. This arrangement forms a map of the site.

User journey

A user journey represents a sequence of events or experiences a user might encounter while using a product or service. A user journey can be mapped or designed to show the steps and choices presented as interactions, and the resulting actions.

Prototype

A prototype is draft representation built to test ideas for layout, behaviour and flow in a system. Prototypes are an indispensable tool for resolving a large number of potential issues in a concept or business before too many resources are deployed to put a design into production.

Wireframes

A Wireframe is a visual schematic that conveys a basic level of communication, structure and behaviour during the design of a system. Wireframes are low-fidelity designs that bypass including a detailed user interface or visual design, conveying just enough to get across the core idea.

Usability

To say something is usable is a qualitative statement about how easy that thing is to use. Usability is an assessment of how learnable a system is and how easy a user finds it to use. The usability of a system or product is a key factor in determining whether the user experience is a good one.

Information Architecture

Information architecture is the design and organisation of content, pages and data into a structure that aids users understanding of a system. A more organised system enables users to more easily find the information they require and complete the intended tasks.

UI Design

User Interface Design is the discipline of designing software interfaces for devices, ideally with a focus on maximising efficiency, responsiveness and aesthetics to foster a good user experience.

UX Design

The practice of User Experience (UX) Design is the coming together of many specific design related disciplines to improve the usability, responsiveness, uptake and aesthetics of a product or service.

User Experience

A general term that covers all aspects of a user's participation while engaging with something that has been designed. Usually when talking about User Experience in the digital design field it refers to the interactions, reactions, emotions and perceptions while using an app, service, website or product.