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Will Core Web Vitals impact your UX and design approach

As you’ve probably heard, a Google update called ‘Core Web Vitals’ (CWV) is coming in May. As a designer, an update like this isn’t usually a concern for me but this one is different. Core Web Vitals is Google’s first major attempt at measuring the user experience of a website and this caught my attention.

The new metrics

Google have announced that Core web vitals will measure a website on three aspects they believe to be core user experience needs when visiting a website – loading, interactivity, and visual stability. These three core areas will then be measured against the following metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint.
  • First Input Delay.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift

Now I will leave the specific detail of these metrics to the more technical members of the team, but to summarise they roughly mean.

Largest Contentful Paint
How long it takes for the largest content element on the page to become visible.

First Input Delay
The time between a user interacting with the site and the website responding to the action.

Cumulative Layout Shift
Does the loading or interaction of certain elements impact or ‘shift’ other content elements on the page?

Clearly, these metrics will first and foremost impact the technical side of a website. However, since this is Google’s first big step into monitoring user experience as a performance metric, is this going to impact how designers think and approach web design?

UX is a holistic approach

I have always had a very holistic approach to user experience design and in the past have been left frustrated when seeing ‘UX’ portrayed as an out-and-out specialism.

Of course you can have specialists however, for the majority of creative and digital teams, everyone from designers and developers to content writers and marketers have an equally important role when it comes to UX. Therefore it is refreshing, especially as a designer, to see that Google is introducing metrics that begin to blend the barriers between technical, content, and design.

Stamping out bad practice

So will CWV change some approaches to web design? Will this update have a larger impact on web designs in the future?

I think Core Web Vitals is less of a metric on the whole of user experience and more of a metric to punish bad user experience

My personal opinion is that CWV won’t drastically change the way websites are being designed moving forward. I think this update is mainly Google’s attempt to stamp out some bad web practice that has worked its way into the modern-day web.

The obvious example is websites that have a lot of on-page advertising and awful habits that mean you ‘accidentally’ click on an advert. To me, Core Web Vitals is less about measuring user experience as a whole and more of a metric to punish bad UX practice.

Considering the smaller details

Despite not having a drastic impact, I still think CWV will impact the thought process on some smaller details of a web design. Elements such as form fields and specifics like validation interactions or content injection might have to be reconsidered for example.

Some websites may have to revisit and potentially tweak the use of large background videos or image sliders to ensure they aren’t penalised, imagining that these would be flagged as the largest content element.

It’s always going to be a balance, if we consider the impact that video has had in creating a better, more immersive user experience over the years then we have to assume Google doesn’t want to punish that. Instead, they do want to punish the websites that exploit it and don’t either a) handle it correctly on the technical side and b) use it with the user’s best interest in mind.

Looking at this solely from a designer’s perspective, if this update doesn’t quite change your design approach or thinking, there will be future updates that certainly will. Initially, this is likely to be a tightening on the current metrics but I wouldn’t be surprised if we were to see them expand from three to five.

It is exciting to see that Google is taking big steps to acknowledge design and in particular user experience as part of its algorithms.