Mobile Web Stress: Understanding the Neurological Impact of Poor Performance [SLIDES]


Earlier today, I had the privilege of speaking at Velocity Santa Clara on a topic near and dear to my heart: the mobile user experience. I presented research we conducted at Radware that I’m really excited about.

By now, most of us have internalized the fact that slow pages hurt mobile user metrics — from bounce rate to online revenues to long-term user retention. At Radware, we wanted to understand the neuroscience behind this in order to get a 360-degree view of mobile performance, so we engaged in the first documented study of the neurological impact of poor performance on mobile users.

Based on similar research performed on desktop users, our study [you can download the report here] involved using a groundbreaking combination of eyetracking and electroencephalography (EEG) technologies to monitor neural activity in a group of mobile users who were asked to perform a series of online transactions via mobile devices. In our study, participants were asked to complete standardized shopping tasks on four ecommerce sites while using a smartphone. We studied participants during these tasks, both at the normal speed over Wifi and also at a consistently slowed-down speed, using software that allowed us to create a 500ms network delay. (IMPORTANT: The participants didn’t know that speed was a factor in the tests; rather, they believed that they were participating in a generic usability/brand perception study.)

Some highlights of our findings:

  • Frustration peaks were most prevalent during the browsing and checkout phases.
  • Users experienced frustration peaks of up to 26% at critical points in the transactions.
  • Faster pages correlated with increased user engagement. (That’s a good thing.)
  • Slowness affected the entire perception of the brand, even non-performance aspects of the site such as content, design, and navigation.
  • Users experience “web stress” even under ideal mobile browsing conditions.

The positive takeaway from this is that there’s a clear opportunity for companies to improve the user experience — and as a result strengthen their overall brand — by investing in performance optimization.

My slides are below. If you have any questions about our research and findings, I’d love to hear them.


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