Performance is something that is rarely discussed when we’re evaluating a website.
Most pieces of experiential design are that way. If things are going well, we’re unaware of the technology that is enabling our task-at-hand. Likewise, if things have gone wrong, we’re made immediately aware of an issue and it frustrates, obfuscates, or completely prevents us from accomplishing our goals.
So we know things need to work – and we know we want them to work quickly – but how does that relate to your brand?
As a digital manifestation of your brand, your website communicates what you do; but also who you are and what you value.
When I load your website, be it on a laptop at work, or on my mobile device on-the-go, I have certain expectations about how quickly I expect to begin to interact with your content. Often times, I’m unaware of these expectations until they aren’t met.
Notice I said “to begin to interact.” This isn’t about “load time” in it’s most basic form. Certainly we want to keep pages lightweight, for a host of reasons, but as a user I don’t care if your site is still loading data unless I’m left watching it happen.
We call this waiting period “time to interactivity.”
Our digital experience must provide an immediate opportunity for your user to begin to consume content, make decisions, and explore – vs. being a helpless spectator while the page is constructed.
Before we go too far into approaches to test for and improve perceived performance, let’s get back to why it matters for your brand.
Certainly metrics like bounce rate and conversion rate can be directly tied to performance improvements. As we continue to make our sites load more quickly – we’ll see these numbers move in the right direction. But viscerally, we can begin to communicate our brand in a way that expresses a commitment to quality and customer satisfaction before the first word on the page is read, the first link is clicked, or the first sale is made.
Next week: Improving performance through mobile-first design and development.
Image: newkind.wpengine.com loading on mobile – from http://webpagetest.org