If everyone is thinking the same, someone isn't thinking

Lori MacVittie

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Related Topics: Telecom Innovation, DevOps for Business Application Services, DevOps Journal

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Performance versus Presentation

#webperf #ado You remember the service, not the plating (unless you're a foodie)

One morning, while reading the Internet (yes, the entire Internet) one morning, I happened upon a rather snarky (and yes, I liked the tone and appreciated the honesty) blog on the value (or lack thereof, to be more precise) of A/B Testing, "Most of your AB-tests will fail". The blog is really a discussion on the rule of diminishing returns and notes the reality that at some point, the value of moving a button 2 pixels to the right is not worth the effort of going through the testing and analysis.

When you combine the eventual statistical ir(relevance) of presentation with the very real impact on conversion rates due to performance (both negative and positive, depending on the direction of performance) it becomes evident that at some point it becomes more valuable to focus on performance over presentation.

If you think about it, most people remember service over plating at a restaurant. As long as the meal isn't dumped on a plate in a manner that's completely unappetizing, most people are happy as long as the service was good, i.e. it was delivered within their anticipated time frame. Even those of us who appreciate an aesthetically pleasing plate will amend a description of our dining experience with "but it took f-o-r-e-v-e-r" if the service was too slow. Service - performance - ends up qualifying even our dining experiences.

And really, how many people do you know who go around praising the color and font choices* on a website or application? How many gush over the painstakingly created icons or the layout that took months to decide upon?

1 secibd delayNow, how many do you hear complain about the performance? About how s-l-o-w the site was last night, or how lag caused their favorite character in their chosen MMORPG to die?

See what I mean? Performance, not plating, is what users remember and it's what they discuss.

Certainly a well-designed and easy to use (and navigate) application is desirable. A poorly designed application can be as much a turn off as a meal dumped unceremoniously on a plate. But pretty only gets you so far, and eventually performance is going to be more of a hindrance than plating, and you need to be ready for that. poor-mobile-sites

A/B testing (and other devops patterns) is a hot topic right now, especially given new tools and techniques that make it easy to conduct. But the aforementioned blog was correct in that at some point, it's just not worth the effort any more. The math says improving performance, not plating, at that point will impact conversion rates and increase revenue far more than moving a button or changing an image. 

As more and more customers move to mobile means of interacting with applications and web sites, performance is going to become even more critical. Mobile devices come with a wide variety of innate issues that impede performance that cannot be addressed directly. After all, unless it's a corporate or corporate-managed device you don't get to mess with the device. Instead, you'll need to leverage a variety of mobile acceleration techniques including minification, content-inlining, compression, image optimization, and even SPDY support.

A/B testing is important in early stages of design, no doubt about that. Usability is not something to be overlooked. But recognize the inflection point, the point at which tweaking is no longer really returning value when compared to the investment in time. Performance improvements, however, seem to contradict the law of diminishing returns based on study after study, and always brings value to both users and the bottom line alike.

So don't get so wrapped up in how the application looks that you overlook how it performs.


*Except, of course, if you use Comic Sans. If you use Comic Sans you will be mocked, loudly and publicly, across the whole of the Internets no matter how fast your site is. Trust me.

 F5 Networksclip_image003[5]clip_image004[5]clip_image006[5]clip_image007[5]clip_image008[5] 

 You can check out your application's performance using F5's FAST.


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More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.