Beauty or horror of UX – Response time

Beauty or horror of UX – Response time

I always believed that being good at what you do is connected to being able to walk the talk, starting with myself. So as a UXD I want to have a page that is optimized and designed for a good user experience.

In the light of that saying I was absolutely mortified today. For what I consider a good UX design one must take into account multiple factors, but there is one that will turn users away from your site before they’ll even reach all the other.

The response time.

Response time is total amount of time it takes to respond to a request. So for a website, a response time would be the total amount of time for the front page and certain sub pages to load for you to read.

For as long as I can remember I had in my head that people will give you about 3 seconds to convince them. But if those 3 seconds are waisted with loading the page … guess what … you’ve made their decision for them. They will leave.

Think of a few scenarios where you have to wait … for example … standing in a line; waiting to get to a doctor; waiting for an order to arrive; waiting on a friend that is late … how do you feel in those situations?

Now think of internet … how do you feel when the Wi-Fi dies; when an internet page is offline; when you have to wait for a video to load; or when you’re in a hurry searching for something and the website is slow to load?

Am I right to assume, that you aren’t exactly happy in those times?

Jakob Nilsen in the Website Response Times explains that the response time matters for the two reasons:

  1. Human limitations, especially in the areas of memory and attention. We simply don’t perform as well if we have to wait and suffer the inevitable decay of information stored in short-term memory.
  2. Human aspirations. We like to feel in control of our destiny rather than subjugated to a computer’s whims. Also, when companies make us wait instead of providing responsive service, they seem either arrogant or incompetent.

Common sense will tell you that users that don’t have to deal with frustration of waiting for the content of your website to load, will be more focused on the content itself. And the content is the one that you’re trying to sell. That is true for any kind of website – be it a shop, a blog or an introduction page.

Nilsen continues with the topic response time in his article Response times: The 3 important limits and talks about how people perceive the time.

  1. 0.1 second is about the limit for having the user feel that the system is reacting instantaneously, meaning that no special feedback is necessary except to display the result.
  2. 1.0 second is about the limit for the user’s flow of thought to stay uninterrupted, even though the user will notice the delay. Normally, no special feedback is necessary during delays of more than 0.1 but less than 1.0 second, but the user does lose the feeling of operating directly on the data.
  3. 10 seconds is about the limit for keeping the user’s attention focused on the dialogue. For longer delays, users will want to perform other tasks while waiting for the computer to finish, so they should be given feedback indicating when the computer expects to be done. Feedback during the delay is especially important if the response time is likely to be highly variable, since users will then not know what to expect.

In one sentence – the shorter the time, the more instantaneous the action feels. It flows and doesn’t cause any frustration.

Remember when I told you I was mortified? Well, yours truly has a blog, a new blog, which had a response time of, read and weep, 10.88 seconds.

The last few days I had a feeling that the blog is a bit slow, but really, more than 10 seconds?! That was a total shock for me.

So, what now?

I don’t code, and before I could get to a programmer that would look at my blog and make it faster, I had to do something. I’m one of those people that likes to act as quickly as possible. So my first though was, Pia you need to understand why the page is so slow. And really, understanding a problem is a key to a good user experience.

To understand why my blog was so slow I used an online tool Pingdom. It is one of the brightest and shiniest webpages I saw in the last few years, but it does the job, and it does it really good.

The tool scans your website, tells you what it’s response time is, and shows you in a waterfall style the actual data, so the details.

I’ll be honest with you. When it comes to understanding those lines that even look weird I am done. I have no idea what to do with that. BUT. When it comes to a details that end with .jpg, I know that. I grabbed this little thing I knew and realized that my photos are making my blog really “heavy” to load.

Hey! This is easy. I can change that myself.

Now, go, ahead. Try and put your web address into Pingdom. See how “heavy” your website is, and then come back.

Did you? If you did, try and find the spikes. My spikes were really obvious, and you can see them right below.

Response time

The solution…

To finish this post off, I want to give you just one quick solution. The optimization for the response time on my blog is still in progress, as I will give the blog to a programmer who will actually understand all those complicated details, but I did take some time to do one thing that had a huge impact on the response time.

Just by reducing the size and not compromising the quality of the photos I use on my blog, the  time went from, read and be amazed, 10.88 seconds to 4.34 seconds for people across the sea and for my fellow Europeans to a nice 2.55 seconds. That is a huge difference.

To make the impact on your blog, shop or website you can use an online tool Tinyjpg. Using drag and drop you upload your photos and the tool reduces their size. Download them to your computer and they are ready to be used.

Go ahead. Try. See the difference in the response time. And then if the time is still high, talk to a developer to help you reduce it even more.

Until next time, let’s make our websites fast like the wind,

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