The Visual User Experience this Father’s Day
Test and Monitor | Posted June 17, 2013

With Mother’s day behind us, June is here along with our annual celebration of fatherhood, and it’s time to show dad some love. Hard to say if it’s seasonal or cultural, however, there is a tendency to pay less attention to Father’s Day than Mother’s Day. Researchers reported people spend an average of 75% more on Mother’s day than they do on Father’s day and that Mother’s day calls for more attention in general.

Let’s face it – men are very visual creatures. And because of that, I thought it would be interesting to analyze the Web performance of some of the sites you may have used to shop for pop from a visual user experience perspective.

For the past four weeks we have measured the technical performance, user experience and availability of 10 relevant e-retailers. The Web performance and user experience metrics collected includes the full page load time as well as the perceived metrics such as “first paint” and “above the fold” time; where first paint is the empirical measure of when the user would first see the page rendering, and when the user would see the page fully loaded in the displayed portion of the browser.


Data from the largest online retailers suggests that Top sites begin visually rendering for a user in just over a second while some of the other sites are delivering somewhat slower user experiences even though their technical performance metrics are comparable.

Speed is the new keystone in Web performance. Understanding what measure of speed best represents your website’s user experience is critical. If customer experience is a priority in your organization you really need to master all the measures of speed.

  1. The traditional technical metrics that capture how long it takes the network to deliver each and every Web page resource to the user’s browser.
  2. Timings from the Web browser itself that indicate progress in page rendering.
  3. And, perhaps most importantly, what the user perceives visually as the Web page is loading.

Let’s look at a specific example from our Father’s Day data (click the images to get a closer look):

First Paint: 1.1883 seconds


Above the fold: 3.3303 seconds


Full Page: 5.5162 seconds


And while Amazon's statistics were okay, customers expect Web pages to load in three seconds or less. There’s plenty of research to back this up - one example is the study by Akamai which suggested that 75% of people might not return to a website that took longer than four seconds to load.  Additional data presented in the same study by Fiona Fui-Hoon Nah at the University of Nebraska revealed that the tolerable load time from and end-user’s perspective dropped to two seconds.  But what does speed really mean to the user?

While the benchmark is a page load time of three seconds or less, it might be “okay” if your full page response time is five seconds – why? Because there can be significant difference between technical and perceived performance meaning the page could be visible to the user in far less time than it takes to load every single page resource given how we build website today and the proliferation of third-party tags and content.

To a user, perception is reality! Welcome to the Matrix!

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