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Slow is Better: Why Sequencing Is More Important Than Speed

Here’s what we know: the web today is weighed down with various tools aimed at engaging users on-site. A great experience requires high-resolution images, video, graphics, and fonts. And now, there’s an increase in social sharing, marketing tracking, and third party items, and an abundance of JavaScript with sophisticated processing is required on the client side. You have to handle this onslaught somehow. The logical starting point is optimizing these in standard web performance fashion to make them faster.

Optimizing for speed is a great start. But it’s no longer enough. Average page load times across the Internet are basically static, and the challenge is growing as more users move to mobile. It’s time to think about other approaches.

The simple truth is perception trumps page load time. Meeting user expectations is a complex process, which is why web performance alone is no longer sufficient. Strategic page sequencing that works in response to user context is the best way to ensure engagement. Sequencing is a concept born out of years of front end optimization techniques. It’s based on the idea that the mission of every web page is not to be fast, but to engage the user. With sequencing, elements are displayed in an order and time sequence that?s specifically geared toward promoting engagement. Read on to see why we’ve converted from speed freaks to sequencing devotees.

Blink and You Miss It

Fast can be disorienting and result in lost opportunities

We’re not the first to suggest that faster is not always better. The Nielsen Norman Group published a study earlier this year on user interface design, concluding that “Users might overlook things that change too fast – and even when they do notice, changeable screen elements are harder to understand in a limited timeframe.”

A website that presents too many options too quickly misses the point altogether. A user can’t engage with a feature, complete a goal, or take action if he is overwhelmed by choice. And when users are served with a change that wasn’t prompted or requested, they don?t know what to look for, or how to continue interacting with the site. Here, speed is only beneficial when a user has prompted an action and awaits the results.

Point to sequencing: Visitors demand great features, but if these features inhibit intended routes and create missed opportunities you’re encouraging users to lament your site instead of laud it. Your site should be geared to encourage goal conversion first, not just speed. By slowing down certain elements of the page, you allow users to fully interact with the most important content, limiting frustration and improving engagement. With sequencing, you can prioritize which page elements appear first, and when, rendering in response to visitor context and creating better visitor flow.

Splashy, Flashy, and Messy

Fast can be overwhelming…ly bad

You want your website to make a big first impression, but flashiness isn’t always effective. When a customer walks into a store, he’s not bombarded with a big “WELCOME TO THE STORE. SIGN UP FOR OUR EMAILS” banner. And with good reason: such an interruption might cause him to walk right back out the door. So why do websites do exactly that?

Chances are, newsletter sign-ups are not your biggest conversion priority, so why create a poor experience to promote a small goal? Human eyes can only look at one item at a time, and human brains can only focus on one thing at a time. Make sure the user’s first interaction with your site is with useful and engaging content, not distracting, peripheral fluff.

Point to sequencing: Proper sequencing produces faster performance, but more importantly, it allows the user to consume information in the logical order and interact with the site properly. By slowing down non-priority items, you can accelerate and promote the ones best geared toward the user. This maintains the visitor’s curiosity and interest in your offering, and encourages ongoing engagement in the form of additional pageviews, time on site, and conversions.

Single Point of Failure

Today, the focus is on a fast page, not better elements

Web performance optimization techniques start at an asset-specific level, including compression, minification, and concatenation. But performance optimization focuses on accelerating page load without any regard for how individual elements engage or distract the visitor.  For example, social media integration (e.g. the Facebook like button) is important to encourage users to socialize positive sentiments about your brand. But if they block your core content from loading they will result in the opposite effect.

Point to sequencing: Speed is of little value when flow is obstructed, but with sequencing, assets can be delayed, relegated to the bottom of the page, or not loaded at all – whatever it takes to ensure the user can interact with your site properly. This is especially useful for third-party assets that you have no control over. It looks great to present social media buttons at the top of the page, but it’s better to have the page load without distracting or frustrating the user; sequence social media tags later in the rendering process to avoid blocking behavior or uncontrollable outages, and successfully engage and delight your users.

Why do well-meaning marketers wreck site experiences?

A typical web page can have many elements, and there is a logical order for the timing and priority for these elements. However, most of the time, little consideration was given to this logic order during development. Instead, the order of these elements is mostly determined by UI design at design time, and isn’t prioritized based on proper sequencing for engagement.

Similarly, and often unintentionally, key engagement aspects are sacrificed in favor of organization at the time of development, and as a live site grows, new assets are piled on top of old code, often to serve marketing campaigns or initiatives.

Luckily, application sequencing can be employed after the fact, and with little tweaking. Want to learn more about the benefits of sequencing? We’ve got the rundown of today’s best strategies for application sequencing in our Engagement Cloud.

Yottaa Ebook A Designer's Guide to Web Performance Download

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