For online shoppers, advertisements tend to be the most frustrating factor in using the Web. According to Retail Forward (2002), the top five online shopping frustrations are:
The third annoyance, slow downloads, are a very common complaint, which have been known to negatively affect user satisfaction, and ultimately sales. In fact, it has been estimated that as much as $4.35 billion in e-commerce sales have been lost each year due to user frustration related to slow downloads (Zona Research, 1999). In fact, ZDNet reported that a survey of 12,000 online customers found that 48% of them gave up trying to purchase an item online because the web pages took too long to load (ZDNet, 2000). Moreover, it has been found that slower web pages were significantly judged as being less interesting than their faster counterparts (Ramsay, 1998), and were thought to have lower quality products, as well as having compromised security (Bouch, et al., 2000).
Currently, the average connection speed is approximately 5Kbps (kilobytes per second). Thus, a 40 Kb web page will take approximately eight seconds to download. This just fits within the so-called 'eight second rule', which is considered the recommended loading time for web pages. That is, it has been suggested that users will tolerate no more than around eight seconds for a web page to download.
There are some studies which back up this suggestion. For example, a study by Bouch et al. (2000) found that participants' average load-time tolerance was 8.57 seconds. However, the standard deviation was 5.9 seconds. Another study by Zona Research (1999), which examined a website with a homepage of 40 Kb, had a bailout rate of 30%, while other pages with 32-35 Kb ranges in the same site had bailout rates of 6% to 8%. Reducing the load time for the home page to 34 Kb decreased bailout rate to the same range as the other pages.
According to Dillart and Kahn (1999), the factors that determine users' frustration with a downloading a website are:
Another cause of slow browsing is due to a poorly defined structure. A lack of careful consideration as to where information should be placed often produces unnecessary or unexpected delays ultimately slowing down browsing within the site -sometimes to a point where it would be faster to find the information by other means - which often causes the user to leave the site. For example, Selvidge found that the average time to complete an information search task across certain airline sites was about 17 minutes. Time to complete the same task by calling the airline by telephone averaged 3 minutes (Selvidge, 1999). Not surprisingly, these types of delays have a strong negative effect on the overall satisfaction of these sites (see Briley & Stoltz, 1999).
However, it does seem as though people are more tolerant in waiting than they were in the past (see 9th GVU survey, 1997). As discussed in Usability News, Selvidge found that users were frustrated by 30 and 60 second delays in page loading time, but would tolerate the 20 second delays (Selvidge, 1999). Again, many factors are at play, such as the provided information, the expected waiting time, their motivation, and their general tolerance for delays.
Users also consistently rate non-working hyperlinks as one of the most annoying aspects of web browsing. An easy way to reduce this problem is to use free services such as websitegarage.com, which tests websites for such things as download time, non-working links, and browser capability.
Usability Research Lab