Why web performance needs to feel fast

Speed isn't everything; learn how to create experiences that feel fast and frictionless with Akami's Tim Kadlec.

There's more to web performance than speed; as Tim Kadlec, web technology advocate at Akamai, points out in his talk from Generate New York earlier this year, what really matters is how fast the experience feels.

It might seem like a minor revelation, but Tim notes that it actually requires a significant shift in the way we approach speed online. It turns out that speed isn't actually everything in performance; alongside that you need to bear in mind how users perceive the experience.

For example, passive waiting – when, say, you're looking at a progress bar (the hold music of the internet, as Tim describes them) or just a blank page before anything's rendered – feels like it takes longer; it tends to be over-estimated by 36%. Give users some feedback, such a skeleton screen rather than a loading bar or spinner, and users will feel much more comfortable waiting for your page to load. Feedback shows progress and reduces anxiety.

Generate New York - Tim Kadlec

Make your pages feel faster with Tim Kadlec's performance tips

Ultimately, performance is the developer's responsibility, and in this talk Tim considers not only how we can reframe performance on the web, but also looks at techniques and technologies that can help create experiences that feel fast and frictionless.

If performance matters to you – and if you work in web development then it absolutely should – there are upcoming talks at Generate conferences that'll give you plenty of insight and tips to help you get things moving faster. At Generate Sydney on 5 September, Mark Zeman discusses crafting a UX that's fast and rich, and explores three case studies that push the boundary of what's possible when delivering the richest web user experience possible in a way that is still highly performant.

And at Generate London on 21-23 September, there are three great sessions that touch on performance issues. In World Wide Web, not Wealthy Westerners' Web, Bruce Lawson will examine the challenges to web access in Asia and Africa that you'll need to take into account if you want to build fast, performant sites that can help you bring your brand to new markets.

On a similar note, in Designing for our next billion users, Rachel Simpson will discuss designing for users in Emerging Markets - why we need to consider these users and what kinds of limitations they face. She'll talk about research conducted for Google Chrome, share some of the team's early insights, and show features designed to solve these problems.

And Paul Lewis will be talking about Progressive Web Apps: experiences that combine the best of the web and the best of apps. They load quickly, even on flaky networks, can re-engage with users by sending web push notifications, have an icon on the home screen, and load as top-level, full screen experiences. If you want to truly enhance your next web project then you'll want to know about this.

There's much more besides on offer at Generate: inspiring talks from the industry's top names, practical workshops and plenty of networking opportunities. To find out more head to the Generate site and pick a conference near you.


Jim McCauley is a writer, editor and occasional podcaster, and is available for space parties.