The 5 Laws of the Website Anything

March 4th, 2009. Tagged: Life and everything, performance, Usability

Via Eric Goldsmith, I found today this nice Web Performance 101 article, where the author, Alberto Savoia, states Top Four Laws of Web Site Performance. The article is as old as 2001 (heh, back then "website", being a relatively newer concept was spelled "web site" ;) ) and the topic is performance, but the "laws" are strikingly fresh and applicable not only to performance, but to any aspect of the web development, and to the websites in general. I couldn't resist the urge to comment and add a 5-th law, so here goes.

1. The Law of Stickiness

People find a website they like which seems to do the job and they tend to stick around. Rarely are people loyal to a web site, so it's not uncommon for people to grow dissatisfied, or irritated, bored, or just find a better option... and migrate and stick around for a while at another site. Friendster-MySpace-Facebook anyone?

As a Yahoo! Search developer I would testify it's not easy to move people over from where they've been sticking around for a while, but it's already happening (Yahoo! Search grew the market share for 5 months in a row) and just the nature of things.

2. The Law of User Perspective

Successful sites are best developed when the developer is the user, when you build something for you and something you would want to use. But that's not always the case. So if your visitors are IE6, dial-up users a continent or two away from your server, don't assume that your Safari Mac browsing session from the room next to the server will be any indication of what users are experiencing.

3. The Law of Responsibility (a.k.a. It's Always Your Fault)

Whatever you do on the website - front-end, back-end, DB, network, whatever... you can change things for the better. So often we find excuses instead of solutions.

And as front-end developers (I assume most of you who read my blog), as, if I'm not mistaken, Nate Koechley puts it, "we're the last line of defense" for our users.

4. The Law of Expectations

People spend most of their time on other sites. Don't be the smart-ass with the cool, but useless and confusing feature. You'll be the only one who finds it cool. Be as fast as the competition, offer user experience people are accustomed to, e.g. put your logo at the top left corner.

OK, let me quickly wrap-up with my addition, before I get too cheesy and inspirational...

5. The Law of the Task

At the end of it, it's about the task. If people come to your site and are able to achieve their task (make a reservation, purchase, subscription, read an article, whatever) with minimum effort and distraction, they'll be happy. They'll recommend you, they'll say your site is fast (although technically, your roundtrip time may be not as good as the competition), they'll stick around (law #1). Don't request too much information in a form, don't be a PITA with your validation, walk the user through as little steps as possible... and get out of the way. People have more interesting things to do than spend time on your site. "If you love somebody, set them free". And you love your users, right :)

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