Google is thinking of taking the F out

Contributor, February 23, 2022

Google is thinking of taking the F out

Key takeaways

  • First Input Delay will be updated to Input Delay
  • The update will focus on the user journey rather than user moment
  • Expect more metrics to be updated 
  • CWV coming to desktop February 2022

What happened to the F?

Google is adjusting their Core Web Vitals (CWV) metrics to focus more on the user journey rather than just a moment within the user journey. Understanding what makes up a positive page experience has always been key to ranking high in Google Search and has been the North Star of the CWVs.  When setting priorities, publishers understand that speed is essential. When calculating speed it is critical to have picked the right “breathing” moments that the user may take – the moment content is either loading or ready for interaction. First Input Delay looks at the first loading event. The Input Delay metric will look not just at the first load but what comes next in the user journey. With this update Google is switching to evaluating more of the user’s journey rather than first arrival to a web page. The belief is that this approach will promote a better user experience and page experience.

Last year (that would be 2021) Google released Core Web Vitals. This provided transparency for publishers on how their page performance is being “seen” by Google. The update was aimed at building publishers’ understanding about how loading, interactivity, and visual stability is measured/evaluated in Google’s eyes.  We covered this update on our blog last year (Understanding Core Web Vitals). At the time of the announcement Google made it clear that these metrics would be open to change, depending on how best to further the dialogue of helping publishers publish fast, secure, and reactive pages.


What Core Web Vitals are doing to your page experience score

Lighthouse from Google continues to be the go to for publishers for understanding page performance. With the release of Core Web Vitals, Google integrated the scoring for Core Web Vitals into their transparency tool Lighthouse and Google Search Console, helping publishers see the impact of CWV as well as delivering insights into scoring. Since the launch of these metrics for mobile web in June 2021, publishers have been busy working to use this knowledge to make better page experiences for their users.

The metric First Input Delay or FID measures how fast a browser can respond to a user interaction with a website. Playing a critical role in response time is a publisher’s content management system (CMS). However, the CMS provider usually has their own interests which are not always inline with Google’s.

CMS companies offer a great advantage for small publishers but it is often delays in template optimisation and additional CMS features that keep publishers performing poorly.  At the time of the update this was one of many concerns from publishers. What could they do?  However, for the most part, the major content management systems – WordPress, Wix, and Drupal – released versions that score very high. This performance change has given Google the ability to expand their page experience score to look deeper into the user journey.


What’s new? ID – Input Delay

The main point to understand about this new metric is that it isn’t measuring a single interaction. It is measuring the collective interactions that are part of the user experience of the page. When a user lands on a page there are a series of events that are loaded. The updated metric will include those “first” events loaded, as well as those subsequent events needed for further interaction.

In a blog post on Google’s web developer page the following four points were highlighted. The blog points out that these four points will help publishers to focus on the user journey.“These four points take the concept of FID and bring it to the bigger picture. The user journey does not stop when the first interactions are loaded but is only able to be seen in movement.” Towards a better responsiveness metric

    • Consider the responsiveness of all user inputs (not just the first one)
    • Capture each event’s full duration (not just the delay).
    • Group events together that occur as part of the same logical user interaction and define that interaction’s latency as the max duration of all its events.
    • Create an aggregate score for all interactions that occur on a page, throughout its full lifecycle.

    LCP, CLS what can change next?

    Core Web Vitals and their impact on search ranking is still yet to be seen. What is clear is that Google’s Lighthouse Audit allows a publisher to see under the hood of their domains. The picture isn’t always pretty, the years have brought a lot of legacy, plans abandoned, and an overall weight on current publisher offerings. Having publishers invest in balancing their pages benefits the whole ecosystem and promotes positive user experiences.

    Updates to the Update are expected to continue as Google (Chrome) learns more about the user experience. The expected roll out for Core Web Vitals on desktop is this month. It will be interesting to see what metrics may come into focus with desktop publishing. This update and the CWV initiative is challenging and asks the publisher to really sit in their user’s seat. What comes next we will have to wait and see.


    If you have any questions about Core Web Vitals and what you can do to improve your score, please be in touch.


    References

    Google Is Creating A New Core Web Vitals Metric, searchenginejournal.com

    Towards a better responsiveness metric, web.dev

    Feedback wanted: An experimental responsiveness metric, web.dev

    Google Feb 2022 Update of Page Experience – What you need to know NOW!, webvitalsdev.com