Just under a month ago, Facebook introduced its new product, Instant Articles. Although we’re still waiting to see the impact, if any, this product release will have on the publishing industry, it’s interesting to note the reasons Facebook gives for developing it. Here’s a short excerpt from the press release (emphasis added):
Today we’re excited to introduce Instant Articles, a new product for publishers to create fast, interactive articles on Facebook.
As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook. People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook. Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles.
Along with a faster experience, Instant Articles introduces a suite of interactive features that allow publishers to bring their stories to life in new ways…”
As you can see, the theme of a faster experience is referenced throughout. It’s even part of the name of the product itself—Instant Articles (as opposed to some other kinds of articles). Of course, Facebook is offering much more than just speed. They’re offering a huge distribution network, as well as a means to make the articles even more engaging and interactive. But the speed issue was still the stated problem they were trying to solve, and represents the foundation of the experience they are trying to provide.
And although little has actually happened since the buzz of the initial release, the fact that Facebook would invest resources to create this tool for publishers, speaks to the growing importance of speed. A fast experience may not be the only thing that matters, but a lack of speed definitely can cripple the effectiveness of even the most interactive material.
Put another way, speed alone may not be sufficient for a good user experience, but it’s becoming more necessary every day.