All About Website Usability Blog – Holly Phillips


The huge difference between .1 and 1 second, part 2
November 21, 2009, 4:29 am
Filed under: confidence, visual design

My last post referenced an astounding finding by Jakob Nielsen about the difference in perception between a 0.1-second page response time and a 1-second response time.  So why do I think this is such a big deal? 

Let’s put this together with a few other things that we know about website visitors.  We’ve found in other usability research that visitors (at least ours) like to be in control.  They want to be the ones to decide when to initiate a chat session, or when to talk to a salesperson.  We also know that they like to see all their options, and not feel that any information is being hidden from them.

So, let’s say that we have two different tabbed page designs — Design A has a .1-second page response time when switching between tabs and Design B has a 1-second response time.  According to Nielsen, our visitor will feel that he’s in control with Design A, and that he can access all of the information because it’s all “on the page”.  On the other hand, with Design B, he’ll feel that the computer is in control and is meting out the information to him.  The user is much more likely to prefer Design A because of these factors. 

This insight can help us make coding decisions, such as whether to load the information on every tab upon first entry to a page, or to load it only when the tab is clicked.  This can thus make the difference between a satisfying and unsatisfying final design, even if they both look identical.  Food for thought…

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