January 03, 2011

Websites that load fast, why it is subjective !

I am a pretty active (if not aggressive) user of facebook, and the one thing that I observe every time I pop up a new tab with facebook on google chrome is that it is almost instantaneous. This set me thinking about how the time a website takes to load affects the user's experience. My speculation is that it is completely subjective. It majorly depends on two important factors (or rather categories of factors) :
  1. What the user is using : the website + browser
  2. What is the user's mood 
Most benchmarks deal with the first set of factors, the ones which deal with the software, but this is not a perfect measurement of the affects on the users interaction with the website. I performed a simple task to measure the difference and took into consideration the second set of factors such as the user's mood etc which affect how the user perceives the speed : 

Open a new tab in a browser you prefer, wait till the page completely loads, now open another tab of the same website and try to close the earlier opened tab, see if you can close the old tab before the new tab opens. Repeat this for various browsers and various websites while you are in different moods. 

This simple test also brings into play a certain factor that we often forget, most benchmarks deal with the time taken for a site to load from scratch (a fresh tab) which is often not the case, most of the time an individual spends on the internet, he/she is not going to open a new website every time, most websites are closed and opened again and again. Again, the whole point of the post is not to provide solid results on which websites are faster or which browser is the best, rather, to focus on some subjective issues we forget in user interactivity !