Whereas “good things come to those who wait” is a popular phrase amongst drinkers of the famous stout, the same certainly wouldn’t be said by users of a slow product.
First up a bit of background on me. Over the course of my career, I’ve always tried to look at the wider picture. UX for me is far more than just the product; it’s everything around it from the social messaging to an event day. At every touch point, the experience and emotion instilled should be as incredible and rewarding as it feasibly can.
Today I work at AOL in the role of Head of Design & UX. To anyone that knows the company AOL has been through several big transformation drives and iterations to get to where it is today. Whilst I could talk for hours on some of the latest and greatest things we’ve been up to, I’ll skip the glory and move onto the legacy products that sit within my remit. In working with these I’ve become ever more interested in performance and its relevance in providing the aforementioned incredible experience. I’ve come to realise just how much of a role performance has to play and how as a UX designer, it should be championed along with everything else we hold dear.
“Alice: How long is forever? White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second.” — Lewis Carroll. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”
As a designer, if you feel poor performance should be the worry of a developer, you’re right, it should. But if it’s affecting the experience of your product, then it should be yours too. The very definition of UX design indicates this, yet all too often I see UX design portrayed as simply a process of research, prototype, test, repeat.
Even if performance is not a perceived problem by you or your users, speeding up your product can reap huge rewards.
For every 1 second of improvement, Walmart.com experienced up to a 2% conversion increase. Firefox reduced average page load time by 2.2 seconds, which increased downloads by 15.4% — resulting in an estimated 10 million additional downloads per year. — Kent Alstad
Performance can have an impact in any sector — in my job I work predominantly with content, where its importance has grown evermore significant in recent years. For publishers, typical users of today have shifted to consuming whilst out and about, usually they’re not on 4G, they’re probably not all using the latest and greatest smartphone, and they want their information fast. If a product is beautifully designed, effortlessly usable, but not setting the world alight in terms of speed, is it really providing the very best experience for these guys? Even if you don’t work in content, I’m sure there are synergies here with this type of user and your own and the answer is still the same.
With Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News making the headlines recently, it’s clear performance is high on the agenda within techs big players. Looking from a UX perspective (I’m aware of the negatives!), these initiatives are here to accelerate tackling the issue of performance. They should serve as a wake-up call to businesses in taking mobile experiences to the next level. This year Google started to heavily favour search results that are mobile friendly and I’ve no doubt performance will be openly weighted just as highly in the very near future.
Performance is something every UX designer should care about. Take a step back, look at your product and question it: could it be faster? Could you remove unnecessary graphics that eat up bandwidth? Could you work with a developer to improve the perceived performance? Could merging adaptive and responsive techniques reduce a bloated page?
There isn’t one answer to improving performance however 100% of the time there is always something that can be done. Place performance higher up on your priority list and your users (and most likely your boss) will thank you for it!