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Why End-User Experience Is Important
Blending great performance metrics with an understanding of your users

Today, more than ever, end user experience is at the forefront of every CTO and CMO's mind as more statistics show websites and applications are easily abandoned if users are not satisfied with their experience. But what makes a good experience?

First we need to ask ourselves what is end-user experience? Years ago, end-user experience referred to how "sticky" an application was: how easy was it to use, how engaging was it, and how relevant was it to what users were doing. This approach is still relevant today but new technology has changed what we understand as "end-user experience."

Today one single website could be:

  • Pointing to 20 or 30 third-party websites
  • Using the latest AJAX framework
  • Dynamically streaming media content

This means the complexity of the web application can greatly affect the global end-user experience by slowing down response time drastically. Steve Souders, Chief Performance Officer at Fastly, says that 80% of performance problems are linked to browser rendering.

Normally, if you have tested the application then Souders's statement is true. However, I don't fully agree. It is only true if you have tested in the proper environment. Tunings, load testing activity needs to be achieved on the application to remove all "back-end" performance issues. Years ago, single page websites were quite simple and the connection was slow; they weren't as interactive, but that's what the users expected. Today websites have more complex technology that affects the performance and in turn, the end-user experience.

How do you create a great end-user experience? And how do you go about measuring it?

Change the Way People Experience Waiting
In order to create an excellent end-user experience you have to start thinking of the way people experience waiting. For example, in general people hate waiting in lines at the supermarket because they're long and you typically stand there for a while. Now look at Disneyland. The theme park has changed how you have experienced waiting in line by moving you through circles or a maze. You are still waiting but experiencing the phenomenon differently, thus you are a little more content standing in line. Disneyland literally has changed the way the end user experiences waiting in line.

Apply Disneyland's logic to websites. Companies spend a lot of money on increasing the performance of their website, but there is still a waiting period people experience for a page to load, which can affect a user's experience. If a person visits a website and there is no information on their screen, it's highly likely they will visit a competitor's website for information. On the other hand, if a person sees information on their screen like an icon or a "processing your request" message pop up as they wait, the user is less agitated waiting because they see information on their screen thus changing the way they experience waiting.

Measuring End User Experience Accurately
It's important to first understand that end-user experience will ultimately affect the business's brand. If you want to guarantee an excellent end-user experience, you need to make sure the end-user experience risk is being handled properly by knowing your download and rendering times. For example, a risk could be if website performance is poor, I will lose a certain amount of revenue. If you do not think of these risks upfront, then your end-user experience can suffer.

There are two different ways to measure end-user experience. The first is to generate a test through your load testing tool and add browser rendering tools that will emulate the end-user experience so you can then record the results. But this is still an estimation; end-user experience depends on a lot of factors like user hardware, location, bandwidth, etc. There is a big chance the load may affect browser rendering, but it really depends on how the website was designed.

The second approach is to utilize real-user monitoring tools (RUM tools), which essentially looks at how the actual user accesses the application, regardless if it's through a mobile device or desktop. You will then be able to see on your dashboards where the bottlenecks form and why the page takes a while to render.

Keep Your Users in Mind
In order to create excellent end user experience you need to blend great performance metrics with an understanding of your users. It only takes one bad experience to make a customer leave, so don't let it happen to your business. If you have questions about testing your end user experience contact our performance experts at Neotys.

About Henrik Rexed
Henrik Rexed is a Performance Specialist at Neotys. He has been orchestrating and conducting performance tests for over 10 years, delivering projects in all contexts including extremely large Cloud testing on the most demanding business areas such as trading applications, video on demand (adaptive streaming), sports websites, etc.

Prior to Neotys, Henrik worked as .NET architect for Logica and Performance testing expert on large accounts in a variety of industries including insurance, automotive, retail and energy. Amongst the numerous initiatives he worked on, Henrik has built the performance Center of Excellence (CoE) handling load testing of all the European branches of a major French insurance company.

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