📝 CSS-Tricks 291: The Ghostly Tale of the Phantom Bounces

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[Robin]: This week Simon Hearne wrote this mighty fine piece about web performance and survivorship bias. His argument is this: we have a bunch of data about how our website is doing (and how poor the user experience is when it comes to performance) but often the data that’s missing is the data we need the most. For example:

The users who have the worst experiences are likely to be phantom bounces: they don’t appear in your analytics or intelligence tools because they don’t hang around long enough for the app to load and analytics to fire.

I must’ve been a phantom bouncer at least a dozen times myself just this week alone; tried to load a website, it was blank for too long, so I just quit my browser and went back to doing something else.

The problem here is that dev teams will often look at these stats and say, “Ah, we don’t need to worry about performance on platform X because we don’t get much traffic there,” without them realizing that they might not be seeing all the data clearly (phantom bounces). But also, the traffic problems could be caused by those performance problems. Simon writes:

It is clear that poor performance will impact your traffic numbers, and means that thousands of potential visitors are leaving your site without a trace. It is also clear that mobile visitors are less tolerant of slow sites.

Scary! But reading this makes me want to be ruthless when it comes to performance. No fonts! No colors! No text! I’m kidding here of course but this is an extremely good reminder that web performance is not a feature you can tack-on.

Ya know what this reminds me of though? Responsive design! Back in the day (and dear lord still too often today) I hear folks say stuff like, “Ah, we don’t get much mobile traffic so we shouldn’t make our big web app responsive.” This is the same kind of logic with the same flaw in its thinking. We don’t have much mobile traffic because our website isn’t responsive.

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