Web Performance is Only 50% of User Experience (UX)

As a former website monitoring vendor,  I have often made the statement that web performance is user experience, and I’ve seen others say the same.  Let’s deconstruct that a little bit and try to add some clarity to what user experience actually is and where application performance management and optimization fit in.

In plain english, User experience (UX) is the science of understanding how a person perceives their digital relationship with your organization. It includes all the subjective aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency.

Quoting more technically from wikipedia’s definition of user experience
ISO 9241-210 defines user experience as “a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service”. According to the ISO definition, user experience includes all the users’ emotions, beliefs, preferences, perceptions, physical and psychological responses, behaviors and accomplishments that occur before, during and after use. The ISO also list three factors that influence user experience: system, user and the context of use.

I would purport then that User Experience is 50% application performance and 50% usability. Application performance is the hard science part while usability is the soft science part.

Usability is about…

Effectiveness – can users complete tasks, achieve goals with the product, do what they want to do?

Efficiency – how much effort do users require to do this?

Satisfaction – what do users think about the products ease of use?

And application performance is about…

Availability – is it there to users to interact with when they choose to?

Performance – does it offer a fast and fluid experience when pressing buttons, entering data or using menus?

Relating user experience to music. It’s not just technical execution of the notes but the voicing of the music as well that makes a piece sound wonderful.

If your website is slow or it doesn’t work users will hate it. Even if it’s super-fast and always there,  if users can’t figure out how to complete the task from the user interface presented or that interaction is tedious they will also hate it.

Yes, web application performance is half of user experience, but so is usability. Both are essential to delivering memorable experiences worth sharing. A key to success in today’s connected world.


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