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Early last week I took advantage of the opportunity to attend the Digital Publishing Summit (DigiPub). The event ran for two days in the pulsing heart of New York City, Times Square. Not only was this my first time spending more time than a passing stroll through the LED-emblazoned district, it was my first chance to learn from the experts about what publishers and content creators are actually worried about and what they are doing to fix it.

I was delighted to find out that better understanding their users was core to many of the solutions presented. Below are three distinct takeaways from my favorite talks at the Summit.

1) Always Respect Your Users’ Time

I work for a web performance company and I know that time is money when it comes to the web. Speed is clearly a crucial component of UX. But there’s one factor I hadn’t yet considered when it comes to digital media:  read time.

Ben Frumin from The Week provided this amazing perspective for me. If you’re pushing content via social media that is primarily mobile, there is a good chance your users are consuming it on a mobile device, ergo, they’re on the move.

While long form is great for in-depth storytelling, it isn’t a very nice way for someone hopping subways and Lyfts to get that “need to know” info about the world around them. The Week shows respect for the multi-taskers out there by working to make sure their key stories can be read in about one minute.

Frumin summed it up like this: “Users will be endeared to your brand if they feel you are respecting their time.” It’s true regardless of your industry, and I couldn’t agree more.

2) Learn to Ask Yourself What Will Never Change

This may sound like the most counterintuitive thing you’ve ever heard from a startup, but it makes perfect sense when you unpack it. This concept was presented by Jarrod Dicker at the Washington Post. It might be even more bewildering of a statement when you consider Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame (and wealth) is the newspaper’s owner. For a company that has changed just about every aspect of how we shop online, thinking about what never changes seems crazy.

So, what never changes even in this increasingly digital world?

Users.

Yes, their demographics and the problems they want you to solve may change, but the fact that you have users and that their needs are your priority will never change.

What are you doing to understand your users? What are you doing to make sure their priorities come first? What are you doing to deliver value with your products? These are the questions that will never change because user-first products will always win.

3) The Performance Paradox

On the second day of the conference, Rigor’s CEO, Craig Hyde, spoke about building a culture of performance. While I assumed I knew what he’d outline in his presentation, I’m glad I didn’t skip it because I learned about a new concept: the performance paradox.

In a nutshell, the performance paradox is that websites are getting slower because we are able to build them faster. Let that sink in. In the rush to push out new features, we are building sites that ignore or misunderstand some basic principles of how the internet works and users suffer because of it.

We must not let the performance paradox become the status quo. If we endear our users by respecting their time, and if we know that a user-first mentality will never change, we can’t keep making slow digital experiences just to rush out the sexiest new product.

Fortunately, building a culture of performance is exactly the envelope we need to package all of these details together. A product doesn’t have to take a long time to build to come out of the gate blazing fast and user-friendly. There are systems and solutions that can be put in place to solve for this. But, how? 

First, and perhaps most notably, we can tie every performance metric we measure to a business metric that determines our success. This helps us Web Speeders get buy-in across the business for a true commitment to performance.  

Second, we can automate everything. With the help of APIs, there is no reason that one critical system can’t call on others to check for speed and functionality before we push new products to our users. 

Lastly, we must never stop improving. Our marketing and product teams go to great lengths with A/B testing to squeeze out just a few percentage points more from their conversion rates. We should be doing the same with milliseconds of load time. Once we’ve conquered the low-hanging fruit, there should be no problem too small to chase if we really care about our users.

Conclusion

While, in many ways, publishing is an old industry, I was encouraged by the commitment I saw to digital transformation and evolution. Respecting the user’s time, meeting the needs of those users by delivering useful content, and maintaining a commitment to performance are essential focus areas for businesses of all types.  If these are priorities for your business, too, check out how Rigor can help.

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