Google VP Marissa Mayer just spoke at the Web 2.0 Conference and offered tidbits on what Google has learned about speed, the user experience, and user satisfaction.
Marissa started with a story about a user test they did. They asked a group of Google searchers how many search results they wanted to see. Users asked for more, more than the ten results Google normally shows. More is more, they said.
So, Marissa ran an experiment where Google increased the number of search results to thirty. Traffic and revenue from Google searchers in the experimental group dropped by 20%.
Ouch. Why? Why, when users had asked for this, did they seem to hate it?
After a bit of looking, Marissa explained that they found an uncontrolled variable. The page with 10 results took .4 seconds to generate. The page with 30 results took .9 seconds.
Half a second delay caused a 20% drop in traffic. Half a second delay killed user satisfaction.
This conclusion may be surprising -- people notice a half second delay? -- but we had a similar experience at Amazon.com. In A/B tests, we tried delaying the page in increments of 100 milliseconds and found that even very small delays would result in substantial and costly drops in revenue.
Being fast really matters. As Marissa said in her talk, "Users really respond to speed."
Marissa went on to describe how they rolled out a new version of Google Maps that was lighter (in page size) and rendered much faster. Google Maps immediately saw substantial boosts in traffic and usage.
The lesson, Marissa said, is that speed matters. People do not like to wait. Do not make them.