Think a little about the readers of your web site

This is a translation of a post by Ricardo Galli about some of the lessons he has learned on Menéame, a social news website in Spanish similar to Digg. I wanted to share some of the concepts with my co-workers, but I thought that it could be interesting to translate the complete work and share it with the whole world 😉 Any English errors are my own. I will also like to thank David Brodigan for help me reviewing the English version.

Bored of having to wait more than 5 seconds to display a blog’s page? Annoyed with those sites with dozens of widgets, gadgets, AJAX effects and mashups that take hours to load? Troubled because you have developed a very efficient program for the last hot framework and “it’s slow”? Me too, and that worries me a lot, These sites are incredibly crap pieces of work that don’t take into account the basics about usability and human interface: Response time perceived by the user.

You can criticize everything else about Menéame, except its speed or that we have not taken into account this very important aspect, that’s why I’m sharing the few rules we have been following very strictly. We already knew some, but we have also learnt many more during these past five years of development .

There are a lot of parameters to take into account to develop “fast” websites. Not only the server speeds, or the time it takes the server to generate dynamic HTML, there are other parameters that directly affect the browser and user’s perception.

In July 2001 I wrote an article at Bulma [in Spanish] where I explained, according to measurements made during the development of the first sites of Diari de Balears and Última Hora (during the years 1997-1998), the fundamental technical parameters to measure and take into account: response time, return time, download time and “display time”. That last parameter, display, is the one that has the most impact for the user. The user expects a quick response, and that’s mostly perceived as the time that takes for the page to start to display on the browser.

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