04 April 2016

The Secret Feature that Everyone Knows About

When someone talks about great features, what do you think of? If you are anything like me, you instantly think of functions. To me, a function is something that allows me to do something. The push of a button makes an action happen: add to cart, navigate to page. However, I believe HOW a feature functions for the user is just as important as WHAT it does.

What if I told you there was one feature that we value so highly that it can break our entire experience with a product? This feature can keep us from making a purchase, navigating through a website, or can even harm our view of a brand. When a company does it right, they can drive huge sales and ensure brand loyalty.

The feature?

Speed.

How important is speed?

Google ran test showing user 30 results instead of the standard 10 since users said they would welcome this feature. After all, more is more, right? Not quite. To generate a page with 10 results took .4 seconds to generate, but the page with 30 results took .9 seconds. This doesn’t seem like much of difference, but the traffic and revenue dropped by 20% due to that extra half second load time.

In another article I wrote, What is the Cost of Sharing, I pointed out that product pages – Amazon is a great example example – can suffer significantly when speed isn’t considered a vital feature. A one second load time can result in a 25% drop in sales. For Amazon, that is a ton of money – 1.6 billion dollars in lost annual sales to be exact.

Services like Siri have been in the news lately as we discuss the what answers they really need to have (Read: ‘Hey Siri, I’m Depressed’: Can Smartphones Answer the Call for Help?) we also have to consider how their speed plays a role in if we use them or not. Siri, Amazon Echo, and Google Now take speed very seriously and we have seen improvements that have resulted in them being used more by consumers.

In fact, page speed is actually one of the factors that Google has admitted it considers when ranking pages!

Considering speed during development

I may be a designer at heart (it’s how I make a living), but I’m a huge advocate for following order when creating any product:

  • Easy (intuitive) – make it easy to use
  • Fast – always consider speed
  • Pretty – make it appealing

These three will always have a heavy impact on one another. It won’t be easy to use if it’s ugly and slow. It won’t matter if the buttons have a perfect 2px drop shadow if the user is focused on how long it took to load. Keeping this order in mind throughout the development process will end up creating a product that your users will appreciate and actually use!

In order to keep speed as a central feature, you have to understand that it’s dependent on everyone’s work. The frontend developer needs to properly structure their code, the backend developer needs to consider server load/requests, and the designer needs to think about use of imagery and it’s affect on page load. Every step is crucial!

While I have always said that visual design is vital to building your brand and having people fall in love with you, speed and usability are just as important.

Remember: First make it easy, then make it fast, finally make it pretty.