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Issue 12.2 ('Inefficiencies')
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The Dangers of Inefficiency

Users will hate your app if it slows them down

Issue: 12.2 (March/April 2014)
Author: Marc Zeedar
Author Bio: Marc taught himself programming in high school when he bought his first computer but had no money for software. He's had fun learning ever since.
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 21,754
Starting Page Number: 33
Article Number: 12207
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Excerpt of article text...

Computers today are blazingly fast. If you've been using computers as long as I have, we're talking hundreds of thousands of times faster than the models I had in high school. These computers are embedded everywhere, too: watches, cellphones, TVs, cars, ovens—everything's a computer now. Yet the odd thing: things don't always seem faster than before. (It's not like my novel gets finished any faster.)

In fact, today's electronics and software can often seem a step backward. Everything's so complicated and offers so many options, it's easy to forget about something as basic as a user's perception of speed. After all, we've just created an amazing application—it's incredible and does super-magical-unbelievable stuff—the user should be writing us thank you cards on thousand dollar bills.

As a developer, our perception is very different from that of a typical user. A user has a task he or she wants done. That's it. They're not using our software because it's so cool or innovative—it's just a stepping stone toward the real goal: managing a stock portfolio, organizing a soccer tournament, posting something to a blog, and so on.

As a developer, we're focused at the micro level, absorbed in technical details like API calls, memory managements, wonky file formats, thread management, cross-platform considerations, and a billion other arcana that mere mortals couldn't possibly understand. We've also seen the application in much worse states: back when it crashed constantly, could barely do what it was supposed to do, and took minutes to do anything. We see the progress we've made and think it's incredible.

But the user—he or she only sees an app that takes too long to launch, has too many confusing menus, or gets in the way of the real goal.

Seconds Matter

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