Often, way too often, we have seen briefings of websites/campaigns/new functionality in which the loading time is not specified as a requirement. Specifying what you want for which market or region is crucial. Indications about traffic estimates per market on what type of pages /actions will help the development teams to get their act together.
Obviously good performance of websites becomes more and more crucial every day. According to the pyramid of S.P. Anderson, which is inspired on Maslows hierarchy of needs, a bad performance is a bad for usability of your whole tool or website. The rest of the pyramid doesn’t make sense without a good performance (next to functional correctness). So, just like you define your features, also define your performance requirements!
How to define speed requirements?
In our opinion it often enough to focus on below two requirements per market (audience / geographical location):
- Average perception loading time per user action (load page, load stuff within a page), e.g. 2 seconds
- Maximum (perception) loading time allowed, e.g. 99.5% of user actions should load within 5 seconds
These two parameters should be practical enough to guide the project as well as steer once the website is ongoing business. Make sure performance is measured as perception and takes into account first time visits as well as recurring visitors (who have cached part of the page).
Next to actual loading time your hoster or infrastructure responsible needs to be steered on few other requirements: availability, response time and peak usage behavior. You can read more about it in outsourcing hosting.
Anecdote: once we have seen a campaign website for a common audience which was delivered by a creative agency. The first page loaded 38 Mega Bytes! And during the reviews, the responsible online marketeer didn’t complain as she reviewed the website with an ultrafast connection close to the test servers. However once the site launched into the different markets, visitors stayed away and lots of complains came in…. obviously. And than the marketeer started to complain about the IT set-up as it was obviously not a problem when she had reviewed the site herself before…