Change is a constant for digital publishers. From Facebook reworking their News Feed (again) to show fewer posts from publishers to Google’s Speed Update including mobile load time in search rankings, the digital publishing industry has a lot to grapple with these days. Publishers don’t just need to worry about fake news, but also digital transformation and fierce competition for readers.
As I think about the multitude of changes facing the publishing industry, there’s a common thread that we should not lose sight of: the importance of the user. Both of these high-profile announcements come from companies grappling with how to deliver a better user experience.
Digital publishers are wrestling with this, too.
A few months ago my colleague, Stephen Krauska, quoted Ben Frumin from The Week, saying, “Users will be endeared to your brand if they feel you are respecting their time.”
I think this concept of respecting your users’ time is helpful because it can be manifested in many different ways. Yes, respecting a user’s time means publishing accurate content, but it also means delivering that content in an expedient manner.
Here are three ways you can respect your users’ time:
1. Gain Visibility Into Your UX
To respect your users and their time, you must first understand what they experience when they visit your site.
Getting a sense of their current experience for key performance metrics, such as time to first byte or time to first ad, can be useful. Likewise, you can use Performance KPIs to track if your digital experience is improving over time. But, when performance degrades, you have to figure out why. Reading a waterfall diagram can help provide insight into what the browser was doing, but you are still trying to reconstruct what the user experienced by looking at a timeline showing when a browser requested and received content. What if you want an actual picture of how the browser loaded and rendered the page?
Filmstrips can help provide this visibility by capturing everything the user sees while the page is loading. This visual record of the page load is powerful because it gives you the insight you need to improve performance, pinpoint defects, and foster collaboration even with less technical team members.
2. Consistently Deliver High Quality Experiences–Especially on Mobile
I mentioned Google’s Speed Update earlier. This update to Google’s ranking algorithm will favor sites that deliver faster mobile experiences. According to findings from the Pew Research Center, 85% of U.S. adults access the news on their mobile phones, so your digital experience on mobile should already be a top priority.
If you need more evidence, consider that, according to Google’s analysis of over 10,000 mobile web domains, the average load time for mobile sites is 19 seconds over 3G connections. When you consider that 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% will visit a competitor’s site instead, failing to prioritize mobile experience simply is not an option.
Measuring your mobile UX has some added complexities: namely network speed and latency. So, when you’re optimizing your site, make sure you are respecting the time of all your users–even those who are trying to get caught up on the subway. Use a monitoring solution with network throttling so you can control for network and latency. This will help you better identify and address the performance defects are degrading your mobile user experience.
Wondering how you stack up? Digiday compiled a list of the speediest sites in the game, as well as the low performers.
3. Get Your Third Parties In Check
Third parties and ad providers are tricky for publishers to deal with. On one hand, they provide valuable revenue, but they can also be a major drag on your performance. How does one reckon with these in light of “respect your users’ time”?
A good place to start is to get a handle on how many third parties are impacting your site–as well as identifying which are the biggest offenders when it comes to performance. We all know it isn’t reasonable to remove all third parties from your site, but once you have a good inventory you can determine if the performance pull is worth the value they are providing your company.
Recently, we helped an ecommerce customer with this process. In the process of re-platforming, they adopted a number of third party vendors, some of which were significantly pushing up their load times. When we ran tests excluding all third parties, their load time was 9 seconds less than when third parties were included. They had actually built a fast website, but it was being dragged down by vendors.
As a result of this data, their team could hold third parties accountable and make strategic decisions about if they should continue doing business with certain vendors.
One of the best ways to weather changes in the industry is to put a relentless focus on improving the user’s experience. Respecting your user’s time–both literally and figuratively–is a helpful way to conceptualize what a better user experience entails.
We know this is true because we see it work. For instance, many of changes made recently at the The New York Times to embrace digital transformation represent a more reader-first approach. Improving the user’s experience isn’t just good the right thing to do–it’s also good for business.
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