UX Testing for websites: the Need for Speed
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Published on March 18, 2016
The first UX test for any website is one that tests speed. While most UX tests want to focus on the speed in which the user can perform a task, find an item, or use a service, the UX testing that is needed is the speed in which a page loads and when a user can first interact with a site. Website aesthetics, functionality, and quality content remain important parts of user experience design, website speed has become a significant issue for UX designers. This is because page load time has become a key factor in maintaining user engagement.
Why UX testing for websites must focus on site speed
Studies from multiple researchers continue to indicate that user engagement is lost if a page does not load within a reasonable period of time, making it a key UX testing metric. Even conversions have been shown to decrease due to slow page load times. The benchmark for reasonable load times is getting faster, as users are expecting broadband performance to provide immediate access to a website. While a UX designer may consider under five second to be reasonable, one study has shown that users start to consider leaving a page at two seconds, and start to take action to leave by three seconds of no activity. The balance of a UX website test can’t occur if the user isn’t on the site. There is no benefit to having a perfect user interaction, user flow, or other aspects of a website that we teach in our UX classes if visitors have left the page or site. This is why user experience testing for websites must initially focus on speed when a site is being evaluated.
UX website testing starts with website loading time
After working on wireframes and prototypes, the first real-word UX test for a website is its page load time. There are a number of places you can go to find out how quickly a web page can be viewed and interacted with by a user. While you can do your own UX testing, Google has a testing tool known as Page Speed Online, which is available as part of Google Analytics. This testing is available as a web-based tool or can be used as part of a browser extension to Google Chrome. The Google Page Speed tests provides an overall score for pages based on a 100-point system. Data is available for load time in desktop browsers, mobile devices, and tablets. Page Speed is more than a UX testing tool, as it also provides guidance on how to optimize pages for different devices, and helps to prioritize items for increasing website performance. Page Speed provides specific UX focused recommendations such as leveraging browser caching, optimizing images, and specifying a character set. Within Google Analytics, access specific page timings and site speed suggestions under the Behavior section by selecting Site Speed.
Using UX test results to improve websites speed
· Optimizing images: Making certain that images are optimized to the correct resolution, and also are using compression.
· Reducing content: Eliminating unnecessary divs and tables, or
These are coding best practices we teach across responsive web design courses and HTML classes, and help contribute to a successful UX.
About the author
Jennifer Smith is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.
Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.