Web Performance is part of User Experience
There are many courses available today for individuals to learn how to design the user experience, or UX, for a website. All of these courses are slightly different, but generally encompass at least some of the following topical elements.
- Research to determine users’ problems or difficulties.
- Empathizing with the users’ journey, including problems and difficulties.
- Communicating resulting design decisions through personas, sitemaps, user flows, wireframes.
Generally, the UX Designer learns to identify and empathize with user difficulties, and then design better UX through research, experimentation, and best practices. So what’s missing in this picture?
Our title gave it away. Website performance is absolutely part of UX Design. Unfortunately, most UX Designers limit their thinking and creative aptitudes to user flows and visual experience. And, even more unfortunately, most developers are more concerned with functionality (aka, “does it work like the spec says it should work?”) than they are with performance. In fact, QA is often solely focused on testing site functionality. Finally, in creating a beautiful user experience design, the designer too often includes visual elements so large that they have a detrimental effect on performance.
The problem is that many developers and designers view performance as something that IT operations does. They think: “We built the site. They run the site. If the site is slow, they are are doing something wrong or not using the proper hardware.”
But let’s ask ourselves honestly, what happens when a user visits a gloriously beautiful web site that’s slow and sluggish? The user has a bad experience. Now, that user does not curse and blame the hardware behind the beautiful but hideously slow website. No, on the contrary, the user blames the name on the website, the brand they once wanted to try. That bad user experience is handed off like a hot potato from design and development, even though collaboration between those two entities could have completely prevented the problem from ever occurring.
Using Apple as the best example of use experience today, we can easily see that they do indeed incorporate performance with their product design. While the new MacBook is a stunning accomplishment of design, it would be worthless if it did not have performance built in. The tech specs page of the new MacBook is almost as amazing as the machine itself, and demonstrates the necessity of performance to accompany beautiful design. The performance of something is directly tied to the UX and thus to the design.
When you are building web pages and web apps, you must start with user experience if your goal is to attract, nurture, and retain users and customers; however, performance must be part of the UX Design process and consideration, or else all the other UX considerations will be in vain.