Google’s Core Web Vitals could be set for a lick of paint

core web vitals
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Google’s Core Web Vitals metrics have been the benchmark for measuring site performance in search results for a couple of years now. But site builders, used to gauging the impact of how their publishing platforms stack up against the standards, may have to contend with fresh changes to the Core Web Vitals definitions. A new responsiveness metric – Interaction to Next Paint (INP) – might replace the existing First Input Delay (FID) measure.

  • In June last year, Google combined existing web vital signals with three new core web vitals to score the overall useability of individual pages. The additions looked at loading times, visual stability and interactivity. The interactivity measure – First Input Delay (FID) – quantified the user’s experience when trying to interact with unresponsive pages.
  • Now, Google is considering replacing the FID measure with Interaction to Next Paint (INP) a measure of how quickly a website responds to user interactions, from taps to mouse clicks. A site’s INP score is based on interactions with the worst latency and a low INP ensures that the page will be reliably responsive at all times.
  • In measuring responsiveness, INP looks at how quickly a user sees visual feedback when they interact with an app or a site – items added to a shopping cart or a menu opening. On the Google web development guidance site, Jeremy Wagner writes:

Responsiveness – that is, how fast a page responds to user input – is crucial to the user experience.

Tougher INP scoring

Google is gradually shifting focus to overall site experience, previously stating: ‘Optimizing for quality of user experience is key to the long-term success of any site on the web.’ The concern for developers is that if Google decides to replace FID with INP, sites that currently get passing scores on Core Web Vitals will fail without significant development work.

  • Google is experimenting with INP as a more ‘well-rounded measure’ of site responsiveness. It covers the entire range of interactions on a site, from initial loading until the user leaves, making it a more reliable indicator of a site’s overall responsiveness than FID.
  • However, the holistic nature of INP makes it more challenging than FID; responsiveness for the user has to be maintained during the whole user experience, not just on first load. According to creative agency and CMS provider Rebel Mouse, this is particularly difficult on mobile.
  • The agency looked at sites across the industry and within its own network, and found that on mobile INP scores were 35.5% worse than FID scores on average. Desktop performance across the same dataset was only 14.1% down.

Improving performance now

Regardless of decisions around INP, to improve page loading speed and performance against Core Web Vitals, Michael Yeon, VP Marketing at visitor relationship platform Admiral recommends that publishers regularly perform three checks.

  • Run page speed and interaction tests
  • Identify unused or unnecessary elements such as old fonts or css scripts.
  • Optimise images, CSS, video and JavaScript for size and load speed.

In a comprehensive article for What’s New In Publishing, Yeon lists a range of additional steps and resources for publishers looking to improve site loading times, core web vitals, and the visitor experience.

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