Importance of website performance: Should I understand it?

Website performance sounds like something technical should be handled by web developers. Would it actually be important for designers or project managers to understand what it means?

Website Performance

What is website performance?

It is more than just page load time, it is also perceived latency. I think good website performance is about delivering the most useful experience, meeting users’ expectations and providing the essential information in a fast, intuitive fashion.

Why is website performance important?

Good website performance is very important for user experience and user engagement. A huge percentage of internet users are accessing the web with smaller devices through mobile browser and mobile app which has slower connection speed.

Findings report that almost half of mobile users expect pages to load in 2 seconds or less, and 40% will abandon a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Web performance also directly affects conversion rate. Also, Google has taken website performance into account in search rankings. Lastly, I personally think it is important that we are building fast, useful websites to improves everyone life instead of wasting it.

Is website performance non-developers problem?

It seems like web developer’s job. Traditionally, it seems like if the website or interactions are slow, web developers can fix it, right? Not exactly.

If designer had designed a website that requires users to download 20MB of images without permission, developers can not fix that. If the project manager had agreed to the client to implement 10 CSS animations firing at the same time with multiple fonts on a landing page, developers can not fix that.

Designs have to be remade, decisions have to be remade. More time and costs are involved.

Each decision on a website project could have an impact on the website performance. Everyone on the team should be educated about the fundamentals of website performance. It makes the team understand the real problems early on as major decisions are being made.

How can I implement website performance better?

Performance by Design

Web performance should be an early consideration and be built into the core structure of the product. Because all secondary decisions will base on the core structure. If performance is not considered early, it is like building upon something is already broken. It will be difficult to scale the project and maintain sustainable results. It is expected to have more time and costs involved in a long run or even a rebuild. Read more on Performance By Design – an Agile Approach.

Prototype early

Prototyping websites into real browsers early is the best way to observe any performance problems at the early stage. It is also a great way to get developers and UX designers involved early to give suggestions on performance issues. There are many places still practicing the post-psd workflow, where the designers fine-tune details after client’s feedback over and over again in Photoshop then hand it to the developers only to find out many design don’t work well on a real browser.

Basecamp (formerly known as 37signals), a well-known software company, explains why they skip Photoshop all together and only use quick paper sketch.

Know HTML, CSS and JavaScript

These are normally the three major elements that users download off your site. Also, normally the main cause of bad website performance if programmed poorly.

I am NOT saying you need to become good at coding. But if you regularly work on web projects, understanding at least what they are and what they do will really help you in a long run in your career since they are generally the main component of websites. You will be able to communicate with developers much better and comprehend many aspects of website performance much quicker. You can start from here.

Read Google’s Web Fundamentals

Google published a series of articles on best practices of building web experiences including web performance. They are excellent and will help you avoid a lot of pitfalls while making long-term plans for your apps or websites.

Further readings:

Written on November 26, 2014