Why Americans should get mad about slow sites and apps

A survey suggests that when people encounter a slow Web site or a poorly performing mobile app, only 13 percent actually feel angry about it. This needs to change.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
Slow loading is not acceptable, is it? Mrapplemac123456/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Please lie down on my chaise longue and tell me the last time you were truly, madly angry.

Was it when someone took away your stuffed Yogi Bear? Was it when someone in a bar said you dressed like an incompetent mobster? Or might you be occasionally prone to rage when your sports team misses a free throw that would seal a game? (Hullo, San Antonio. I trust it's sunny today.)

Though to the rest of the world it seems as if Americans can get angry at the mere suggestion of disrespect, when it comes to technology, we are an intensely patient people.

I am leaning heavily this morning on a survey that shows people are extremely tolerant of poorly performing Web sites and mobile apps.

"It's taking an hour to download? Oh, poor thing. Perhaps the folks behind it had a rough night. Perhaps it's got a tummy ache."

This remarkable survey -- in which 2,046 individuals were asked to be honest -- was performed on behalf of SOASTA.

This is a fascinating company whose employees stay up at night banging their heads against solid objects in an attempt to improve technological experiences.

What this survey showed was that the best (worst) that people could admit to when a site or app isn't working properly was annoyance (75 percent) and frustration (69 percent).

A trifling 13 percent confessed to channeling their inner Howard Beale and declaring: "I"m mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

A vast majority admitted that the most important criteria when it comes to sites and apps was that they work when needed and that they work quickly.

Some might be astonished that, for a fulsome 38 percent, what was extremely important to them was that sites and apps are "fun to use."

How odd, then, that there remain so many sites that enjoy all the helpfulness and alacrity of a Soviet supply store circa 1974.

What turns my mind to Demented Mach 7 is that a mere 28 percent of respondents admitted they'd go to a competitor's site if the one they were seeking was taking too long.

What do the rest of them do? Just sit there until it works? Leave it on their screens, go off and get a stiff Chardonnay and return in tipsy hope?

An even greater indication of the urgent need for mass corrective mental education was that only 18 percent said they'd never go back to a poorly working page again.

It's odd that people are so tolerant of bad sites and apps, when they aren't nearly so tolerant of, say, restaurants or TV shows.

The question, naturally, is whether some brands are aware of this.

I know of more than one apparently successful retail company where the digital employees spend much of their days in book clubs, role-playing, and decorating their offices with disco balls, rather than pursuing a better experience for their customers.

And yet the customers keep coming back because, for example, they like the merchandise on offer.

Anger is, at heart, an ugly emotion. It contorts both the face and the spirit. But sometimes it's worth expressing ire in order to show the complacent that their smugness is slap-worthy.

Our 52 minutes are up. But, for next time, please practice less tolerance when it's obvious to you that someone, somewhere is making your technological experience more than merely frustrating.

Next week, we'll talk about how your relationship with your parents affects your color choice when you buy T-shirts online.