Improved Performance Reduces Stress

by | November 18, 2013

It’s a well-documented fact that poor web performance has a quantifiable negative impact on business.

Tammy Everts, Radware’s self-proclaimed web performance and UX “geek,” will show you how poor performance also hurts your users – neurologically. She will give a presentation at Velocity Conference NYC next month that addresses the neurological impacts of poor web performance on mobile users. Building upon a study conducted by CA Technologies in 2010 on desktop users’ brain wave activity, Everts will reveal results from a new, similarly-structured study on mobile users.

In 2010, CA Technologies commissioned a study to monitor brain wave activity while participating in common e-commerce transactions – searching for a product and purchasing it – at two different web speeds. Everts sums up the results of the study, which are indeed striking:

  • Brain wave analysis from the experiment revealed that participants had to concentrate up to 50% more when using badly performing websites.
  • EOG technology and behavioral analysis of the subjects also revealed greater agitation and stress in these periods.
  • This data was backed up by feedback from participants after the study. When asked what they liked most and least about the websites they were asked to use for the study, participants frequently cited their speed as a top concern.
  • The study also found that people are most likely to experience the greatest levels of stress during two points in the sales cycle, searching and checkout.

Why the stress? Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group explains that poorly performing websites prey on two fundamental human requirements: short-term memory and the need to feel in control. Websites that take too long to load causes information to “decay” in our memories (the longer we wait, the less we remember) and causes us to feel powerless.

The implications of the study have major ramifications for e-retailers. While landing pages may be the typical focus of performance optimization, search and check-out functions need just as much attention. Check-out is an especially crucial point for performance testing, as it is the stage in a user’s experience during which they pull the trigger on their transaction. Discouraged users may abandon their purchase before it is completed, and not return to the site again.

Despite these findings, many major e-retailers are not improving their performance. In fact, load times among the top 100 e-retailers went up 22% in the last year. Amazon is the lone big retailer continuing to improve its load times – and their commitment to performance pays.  

The performance gap created by many retailers allowing their load times to suffer as their pages get bigger and more complex leaves a void in the market for other companies to expand their business by offering better user experiences. This holds especially true in the mobile space. As mobile payments become more and more widespread, e-retailers will have to focus more performance testing and optimization efforts on the search and checkout functions on their mobile pages and applications.

Performance testing is becoming a more essential tool for success on the web year after year and month after month. As Nielsen puts it: “Make it snappy, and you’ll have a big leg up on the competition and their slow sites.”