[thelist] Fw: Page Download Times -- UIEtips 01/29/01

Norman Bunn norman.bunn at craftedsolutions.com
Tue Jan 30 17:51:32 CST 2001

Thought you might find this interesting...


----- Original Message ----- 
From: Jared M. Spool <jared.m.spool at uie.com>
To: Friends of UIE <Friends.u1 at uie.com>
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2001 1:50 PM
Subject: Page Download Times -- UIEtips 01/29/01

> UIEtips 01/01
> _______________
> Table of Contents
> *  Introduction
> *  Message From The Editor
> *  Feature: The Truth About Download Time
> *  Our Firm Is Growing: Welcome Willy Wiegler, Julie Hawks,
>    Erik Ojakaar, Christine Perfetti, and Deborah Judge
> *  Upcoming Courses
> *  Jared Spool's Brain Sparks
> *  On the Road
> *  User Interface Engineering Is Hiring
> *  UIEtips Subscription Information
> _______________
> Introduction
> UIEtips presents our latest research along with other information
> developers need to design today's products.
> UIEtips is produced by User Interface Engineering, a research
> firm based in Bradford, MA. Information on subscribing to
> UIEtips can be found at the end of this message.
> _______________
> Message From The Editor
> Jared M. Spool
> If it seems like it's been a while since the last issue of
> UIEtips hit your Inbox, well it has been. The good news is
> that, in the interim, we've been hard at work on a slew of
> new research that we can't wait to share with you.
> This month's UIEtips article covers a hot topic -- page down-
> load times on web sites. We've had clients tell us that they
> plan to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars reducing the
> amount of time it takes for their pages to load. Trouble is,
> we can't tell them it's worth it. Read on to see what our
> research demonstrates...
> In other news, we are currently looking for some great,
> hard-working people to join us at User Interface Engineering.
> We have openings for a Content Specialist and Marketing
> Manager. If you're interested in working in a fun, entre-
> preneurial environment where new ideas, creativity, and
> teamwork are valued, I encourage you to apply.
> As always, if you receive duplicate messages from us, just 
> forward both back to me and I'll research the problem. If you 
> have any questions or comments, please feel free to drop me a 
> note at jared.m.spool at uie.com.
> Jared
> _______________
> Feature:  The Truth About Download Time
> We hear all the time from web designers that they spend countless
> hours and resources trying to speed up their web pages' download
> time because they believe that people are turned off by slow-
> loading pages. Their concerns have been amplified by experts like
> Jakob Nielsen who asserts that users become frustrated after
> waiting too long for pages to load.  It makes sense that a slow
> loading page is unusable.  We know that if a page takes 2 hours
> to load, chances are people will abandon their tasks.  But when
> does download time go from too slow to fast enough?
> Nielsen reports that the home pages of the most popular sites he
> studied took an average of 8 seconds to download, whereas the 
> pages of the less popular sites took an average of 19 seconds to 
> download. He therefore concludes that users will be annoyed or 
> frustrated by pages that take any longer than about 10 seconds to
> load.
> When we began our research, we thought we would find a strong re-
> lationship between page download time and usability: sites with
> faster download times would be more usable than slower sites.
> We also expected that users would be consistent in their ratings
> of site speed, and that these ratings would correlate strongly
> with the actual speed of the sites.
> To test these predictions, we studied 10 different web sites over
> a 56 kbps modem.  On these sites, we had users perform their own
> personal tasks; each user did something that was interesting and
> meaningful to her.  No two users performed the same tasks on any
> site. For each of the sites, we had users rate how fast they felt
> the site was. We called the users' measures their "perceived 
> speed" of the site. Later, we watched videotapes of the studies
> and measured the actual download times of the pages.
> We started by confirming one of our hypotheses: all users rated
> the speed of the 10 web sites consistently; they thought
> Amazon.com, REI.com, and L.L. Bean.com were the fastest and
> About.com was the slowest. Despite having performed different
> tasks on these sites, users were consistent in their reports of
> perceived speed.
> Our other finding, though, took us entirely by surprise. When we
> looked at the actual download speeds of the sites we tested, we
> found that there was no correlation between these and the
> perceived speeds reported by our users.  About.com, rated slowest
> by our users, was actually the fastest site (average: 8 seconds).
> Amazon.com, rated as one of the fastest sites by users, was really
> the slowest (average: 36 seconds).
> There was still another surprising finding from our study: a 
> strong correlation between perceived download time and whether
> users successfully completed their tasks on a site.  There was,
> however, no correlation between actual download time and task
> success, causing us to discard our original hypothesis. It seems
> that, when people accomplish what they set out to do on a site,
> they perceive that site to be fast.
> When we thought about these findings, they made a lot of sense to
> us. If people can't find what they want on a site, they will
> regard the site as a waste of time (and slow). But, when users
> successfully complete tasks on a site, they will perceive their
> time there as having been well spent.
> Jakob Nielsen tells designers to focus efforts on improving actual
> page download times on their sites.  But what we're seeing leads
> us to wonder if it's worth the resources to make web pages load
> like lightning. Instead, we're wondering: When users are
> complaining about the download speed of your site, what are they
> actually complaining about? Are you better off making the site
> load faster or ensuring that users complete their tasks?

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