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Four Steps to improve User Experience

Updated: Mar 31

User experience is the most critical success criterion, and users' expectations are permanently rising. According to a recent study from Akamai, in 2006, the average business user expected response times of 4 seconds. Today, 49% expect load times of 2 seconds or below. 

In this post, I will illuminate the reasons why organizations are failing to meet users' speed expectations and provide simple steps toward performance by nature.

Let's start with your understanding of acceptable load times. Are two-second response times the holy grail for all your applications? Possibly not. My experience is that this depends on the purpose. If suitable alternative applications are available, users won't stay with a slow-loading system. Organizations that earn their money with online business will lose revenue if users abandon using their services and spend their money on their competitors. Don't think that slow load times impact only those online businesses. Research has pointed out that unsatisfied users are less productive and are more likely to leave.

Drivers of bad user experience

I assume those working in performance engineering are permanently fighting against those evil practices. First and foremost, it's essential to eliminate your complex IT or business processes. If you need help understanding and remembering the process in 5 minutes or less, try to simplify it.

Secondly, not integrating performance testing into your development pipeline and trying to solve hotspots with hardware is another fundamental element of a bad user experience.

Thirdly, don't reinvent the wheel. There are thousands of outstanding frameworks available, and a broad community can help you fix identified issues. 

Finally, just throwing your new application over the wall and forgetting performance reviews on production is another bad practice. Be aware that changes in content, user, or data volume impact end-to-end response times.

Performance by nature

Successful retailers such as Amazon set the user experience bar extremely high. Buying products from their stores is simple, and personally speaking, I have always experienced good response times on their websites. A user experience-first enterprise is more about doing the right things than spending millions on tools and testing efforts. Based on my knowledge, eliminating nasty performance bottlenecks requires just four practices.

Practice One: Establish Performance Engineering

Independent of whether you follow Agile or other development principles, you need a team that takes accountability and responsibility for performance topics. Splitting up performance testing and performance monitoring groups can save time. It's much better to rely on performance engineers who support the whole lifecycle from development through production.

Practice Two: Build Awareness

Performance is everyone's responsibility. Those who tune all components and forget the end-to-end performance considerations gradually fail to achieve a satisfying user experience. Create awareness across your teams and open their minds to a shared performance responsibility.

Practice Three: Lifecycle Integration

There is much truth in test performance early and often because many hot spots are rooted in design failures. Those companies that consider performance aspects from day one in their development build the ground for good end-to-end response times. Design and test teams reflect NFRs in their activities, and operational staff gets more insights into the new application's boundaries.

Practice Four: Performance Toolbox

You can spend millions in performance testing and monitoring suites without reaching significant improvements. There are dozens of commercial and open-source solutions on the market. Efficient performance engineering suites are designed to share metrics across the organization and allow the reuse of all artifacts within the lifecycle. Contacting independent performance engineering specialists is wise because they can tell you the truth and help you find the best performance suite for your purpose.

There is no cure for a permanent performance. Implement the four fundamental steps, and you will push user experience step by step in a good direction. 

Keep doing the good things!

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