4 Things You Didn’t Know About The Web

The digital world operates in its own timezone and it can feel hard to keep up. These quick facts point to important trends in our industry and we all need to strive to do better.

1. “If your site takes more than 3 seconds to load, users will abandon loading it.” @yeseniaa

Ready to feel old? According to Craig Hyde, CEO of Rigor, the size of a web page today is about the same size as an MP3 file. Do you remember how long it used to take to download a single MP3? I do.

Fast sites build trust, and slow-loading sites are abandoned. According to the New York Times, if your competitor loads 250 milliseconds faster, users will use that. In fact a mere 160kb added to page weight meant a 12% increase in bounce rate on Etsy.com for mobile users (source).

2. “There are 8 billion mobile devices in the world today.” @beep

Think about the last time you purchased something online. If you think about it, I’m betting you may have checked it out on your laptop, maybe compared places to buy from on your tablet, and maybe finally pulled the trigger from your mobile device while you were waiting for the bus. More than 40% of all online U.S. users start an activity on one screen and finish it on another.

More and more, users are becoming intolerant to differences in experience between accessing your digital product. As digital designers, we no longer have the luxury of not holding every channel we manage to the same standard. We cannot rely on driving users to our preferred platform. As Jeffrey Zeldman says, “No one wants to download your app when they come to your website.”

3. UK.gov saved £1.8 billion in support costs by redoing their digital knowledge base. (source)

Every time Walmart can reduce their page load time by 1 second, they see a 2% increase in conversions. On the other hand, Amazon loses $1.6 billion if their pages load one second slower.

Good websites save money. Efficient and user-driven content strategies mean an easy interaction for your users with your brand, and that directly affects your company’s bottom line. Keep that in mind when you’re deciding who you want to run those properties and when you’re pitching digital projects to your upper management.

4. Microsoft.com has 15 million pages, 4 million of which have never been visited.

Websites are not document repository systems – over and over I have this debate. It is easy to fall prey to the idea of putting something on the website “just in case someone needs it” but this is how we end up with cluttered, unfocused content.

Suspiciously, more often than not the “just in case” content is a PDF. Karen McGrane calls PDFs “content blobs” – not responsive, not searchable, not accessible, and ultimately, not truly digital. PDFs are essentially content coffins; if there is valuable content inside your PDFs, bring it out and make it useful.

The Web Is Not A Piece Of Paper

I have the privilege in my day job to work with three extremely talented in-house designers. I also work with many in-house clients who, while great to work with, often see the website as the last checkbox to check on a project and nothing more. I am often asked to simply “put it on the web,” and I bet you have been too.

This request often comes in the form of a cringe-worthy acronym: PDF. Just take those beautiful designs those amazing designers did and toss them into a PDF on site. While PDFs certainly have their place, I believe it should only be for documents that are intended to be printed (hence “Portable Document Format”) or in cases where (let’s be realistic) recreating the design is cost or time-prohibitive. On the latter, I try to only use this as a true last resort. One of the greatest lessons I learned at AEA Orlando was that not every viewport has to have the exact same design; they have to have the same type of experience. The same can be said for static graphic design and the web – don’t aim for twins, aim for siblings.

TO2015 Graphics in Terminal 1, Toronto Pearson.
Screen capture of TorontoPearson.com/TO2015
Siblings, not twins.

This experience is not only limited to visuals – text can suffer the same fate. Take for example an awards program. The program description was already written and saved out as a PDF, so the ask was simply to add the PDF to the site. But this is a bad user experience, especially in an increasingly mobile environment. Why should I make my users download and open a PDF, rather than providing them the information right there on the page? You could make the argument that the nomination form itself should remain a PDF, but that only works if you user base is known to prefer working with paper copies, and that you as the awards program administrator, are okay working primarily with paper submissions.