2013 was the year of Performance Boo-Boos in user experience. August was a particularly tough month with Amazon and The New York Times Websites both going down, at least temporarily and we will all probably long remember (some more than others) the disastrous rollout in October of the various Healthcare.gov Websites.
Performance is a critical component of the user / customer experience. It is not always the most talked about in user experience circles, however, and minor glitches are often ignored or discounted in usability testing, because tests are often run with rough prototypes and staging servers, where performance issues are expected.
Nevertheless, Performance has been clearly asserting itself recently, as if to say “Ignore me at your peril!”
Standards to consider in examing performance for a single user experience include:
- Can I get onto the site or system?
- How quickly do pages load?
- Does everything remain stable once it is running, or do things crash and lose the connection?
- Do I get frequent error messages?
When sites aren’t sized properly to handle multiple simultaneous users, the user experience of a single user can be a big Zero. Will the user return? Yes, if s/he is sufficiently motivated to…read the news, buy something, or sign up for health insurance.
But users may not be motivated to return to your site if you’re not a major site, or the government isn’t making you buy something there. Do you want to take that chance?
When hackers take a site down, performance issues can be excused. When project managers fail to test with actual users and pay attention to the results, few are charitable about the situation.
Hopefully, the lessons of 2013 will stick with those of us who design and build Websites.