Some years ago, executives at a Houston airport faced a troubling customer-relations issue. Passengers were lodging an inordinate number of complaints about the long waits at baggage claim. In response, the executives increased the number of baggage handlers working that shift. The plan worked: the average wait fell to eight minutes, well within industry benchmarks. But the complaints persisted. Puzzled, the airport executives undertook a more careful, on-site analysis. They found that it took passengers a minute to walk from their arrival gates to baggage claim and seven more minutes to get their bags. Roughly 88 percent of their time, in other words, was spent standing around waiting for their bags. So the airport decided on a new approach: instead of reducing wait times, it moved the arrival gates away from the main terminal and routed bags to the outermost carousel. Passengers now had to walk six times longer to get their bags. Complaints dropped to near zero.
I find this quirk of human behavior absolutely fascinating, and I can fully relate to it. When stuck in traffic, I’d much rather get off the highway and take the scenic route, which may get me the same time to get where I’m going as if I just stuck it out, simply because I’m moving.
Brad Frost recently cited some data claiming that 74 percent of visitors abandon a website if it takes more than 5 seconds to load. And visitors allegedly expect mobile sites to load even faster than desktop, despite decreased bandwidth availability.
If you’re not serious about website performance yet, you should be.