User experience and web performance are among the best indicators of business outcomes. Yet when we think about web performance, it’s easy to fall into an abyss of metrics. TCP connection, TTFB, start render, PageSpeed and YSlow scores ... these metrics are all useful and necessary, but they’re just a means to an end — user experience.
But “user experience” is one of those phrases that’s so dangerously overused it’s on the verge of becoming meaningless. You can’t throw a rock without pegging a user experience expert. And users have been reduced to dubious psychographic avatars or straw men — and straw women — onto whom we project our own values and opinions. As a result, user experience is in danger of obfuscating the very things it was originally intended to do: filter out our highly fallible subjectivity and use real data to understand how actual human beings use the sites and apps we build.
Tammy Everts walks you through a brief history of UX and web performance research, highlighting key studies that connect the dots between performance and user experience, and sharing some educated guesses about new metrics that are just around the corner. We still have so much to learn. Some day we’ll laugh at how much we assumed and how little we actually knew. But if we stay on course, we’ll get there.
Tammy Everts is chief experience officer at SpeedCurve, where she helps companies understand how visitors use their websites. She has spent the past two decades studying how people use the web. Since 2009, she’s focused on the intersection between web performance, user experience, and business metrics. Tammy’s book, Time Is Money: The Business Value of Web Performance (O’Reilly), is a distillation of much of this research (but there’s always more to be learned). She co-curates (with Tim Kadlec) WPO Stats, a collection of performance case studies.