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Google’s Core Web Vitals Increases Importance of User Experience

User Experience as a Google Ranking Factor

User Experience (UX) is becoming more important than ever. Why? Because Google announced on May 28, 2020 that in the near future UX will hold even more weight in its search ranking algorithm. The new metrics are called “Core Web Vitals”, and will be incorporated into the search ranking algorithm next year with six months’ notice, to give people enough time to prepare.

UX encompasses such a broad range of issues — from intangible qualities of a website such as how the site makes a visitor feel to more easily measurable aspects such as page speed — you might be wondering how exactly Google is going to measure this. Google already considers site speed, security and mobile-friendliness in its algorithm, after all.

Defining the Metrics of a Good User Experience

The fact is, UX is mostly subjective, so how to define the metrics? To be relevant to a user’s experience, metrics must address these user-centric key aspects: the sense that something is happening quickly, the usefulness of the page, its ease-of-use and if the experience makes them feel good.

A single metric could cover a number of these key UX aspects. For example, speed can be measured in a number of ways, from the indiscriminate <load> which measures the time it take for the whole page with all its elements and resources to load, never mind the order, to First Meaningful Paint, which is better, but still does not factor in the usefulness of what shows up first.

Largest Colorful Paint, tries to take several UX key aspects into account by measuring how quickly a page becomes useful. As such, it covers quite a few of the basic key aspects: efficient load time, usefulness (because that is what was actually measured) and, because it was quick and useful, it probably made the user happy! The Largest Colorful Paint is one of the three Core Web Vitals that will be incorporated into the new algorithm. The other two are: First Input Delay and Cumulative Layout Shift.

Core Web Vitals

The metrics Google uses as its base measure of UX takes into account, speed, interactivity, and visual stability. Together, these are called the “Core Web Vitals”. In combination with the older measures, the Core Web Vitals are designed to provide a holistic measure of the quality of a page in terms of a user’s real-world experience.

Core Web Vitals as displayed on PageSpeed Insights.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

LCP measures load speed as perceived by the user — meaning, it measures how quickly a page loads and renders the content that makes the page relevant and useful to the user.

A good UX is when the largest content element is visible within 2.5 seconds of page load. Making sure your site’s LCP is at or above the 75th percentile of page loads will ensure a good experience for your users and a good grade for ranking too.

First Input Delay (FID) 

FID measures interactivity; specifically it measures how long it takes a browser to respond after a user clicks an interactive element such as a button.

A good FID measure is less than 100 milliseconds. Again, being at or above the 75th percentile is a good indication of meeting this measure.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

CLS measures visual stability. How many times have you inadvertently clicked something you didn’t want to because the page shifted just as you clicked? A low CLS would certainly increase user happiness. CLS measures how often these types of shifts occur during the lifespan of the page.

A good CLS is less than 0.1 or within the 75th percentile.

How To Prepare

Google stresses that excellent, relevant content is still their first priority, but if several pages have comparable content, good Core Web Vitals could be the measure that puts your site ahead of the rest in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

There are tools to help you determine how well you are doing. Chrome has released a Core Web Vitals extension. PageSpeed Insights now provides information on Core Web Vitals as well as general site speed.

If you do need to make changes, it is better to do it sooner rather than later. Most of the fixes are related to how your page resources are loading and will require a web developer to fix. If you need help, feel free to contact us .

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