Impatient America: Response Time in the Era of Immediacy


Anyone that travels knows about delays, and I’ve experienced plenty of those. Delays due to weather, mechanical issues, air traffic control, delayed flight crews and many other things make travel the wonderfully glamorous experience it is. Of course, I say this a bit tongue-in-cheek as it’s still amazing to me that a few hundred dollars can get someone across the Atlantic in mere hours, when less than a century ago it took a week, at best. I saw a comedian, Louis C.K., do a bit on this called, “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.” Google it and see if you think he’s right.

I’m not going to dive into the many reasons why I think our culture has grown so impatient, but suffice it to say, it is. And if companies with an online presence are not

prepared to respond to the public expectation for immediacy, they will find their audience shrinking and their revenue following suit.

A few days ago, I received an interesting info-graphic on this very topic that is quite telling. Here are some highlights:

  • If Google response time is slowed by only .4 of a second, there are 8 million fewer searches completed per day
  • There is a 25% abandonment rate when a web page takes more than 4 seconds to render
  • There is a 50% mobile abandonment rate for a ten second render time.

And here’s a striking extrapolation drawn from this data:

Amazon makes about $67 million in sales per day. It could potentially lose up to $1.6 billion per year because of a 1 second page delay.

Your business may not be Amazon — few are — but the impact could be considerable if response time is ignored. If you think your product or service is so phenomenal that people will wait an extra second or two, think again. The research behind this info-graphic shows that 20% of Americans are outright rude to someone who serves them too slowly. If it’s that easy to be rude in person, imagine how much easier it is to close a slow web page. Now, imagine it’s your page that’s being closed.

Attention to User Experience is extremely important but don’t forget that the proper technology is required to support a good user experience. You may have the most brilliant design and engaging experience available, one that puts your competition to shame and that focus groups have raved about, but if you can’t deliver it quickly, many will never see it.

So what technology related items should be considered when creating a new user experience? Here are a few questions that should be considered:

  • How difficult will it be to scale the user experience in a multi-server environment?
  • Is there any component (content, process, etc) of the user experience that is subject to a processing bottleneck?
  • Are there technical solutions such as caching or using a CDN that can offload processing time from an application and place it in a border zone?
  • What is the most time-consuming transaction that needs to be completed during the experience path and what can be done to minimize its impact?

Of course, there are many more things to consider when creating a solution that delivers a new and creative user experience. Some, like the above, are questions that should always be asked. Others will be more specific to a particular business or platform. In any event, it’s important to understand that proper technology implementation can help overcome the cultural impatience that exists in our society. Overestimate the patience of your customers and you’ll like overestimate your revenue potential.

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