“This Browser is Lightning Fast”: The Effects of Message Content on Perceived Performance

With technical performance being similar for various web browsers, improving user perceived performance is integral to optimizing browser quality. We investigated the importance of priming, which has a well-documented ability to affect people’s beliefs, on users’ perceptions of web browser performance.


We used a between-subjects design and manipulated the article content (Self-Driving Cars, Firefox UI, Firefox Performance) and article source (USA Today, The Verge). Each participant experienced one of the six combinations of article content and source. A breakdown of our design and the number of participants in each branch can be seen in the table below.

We used Survey Sampling International (SSI) to enlist participants (N=1495) for a web-based survey.

Demographic screening criteria based on Pew’s omnibus Internet survey were used to ensure a diverse, demographically representative sample of United States Internet users.

Participants answered questions about technological experience and behavior before reading one of the three articles from one of the two sources and rating its credibility.

Next, participants gave feedback about the performance and design of two browsers, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox (questions about factors other than speed were asked to conceal the fact that perception of speed was our main concern).

Main Findings

Google Chrome is deemed fastest by default.
• Expected given Google’s prevalence in the advertising sector, coverage in the mainstream media and its primary marketing message that Chrome is “a faster browser”

Reading an article about Mozilla Firefox makes Firefox seem faster.
• Engaging with the media to present software as high-performing is an important step in influencing users’ perceptions of that browser Reading an article about Mozilla Firefox performance makes Firefox faster than Chrome.
• Priming users about software’s performance is an integral piece of overall perceived performance that must be considered by developers, and it also presents a potential opportunity for smaller companies to compete with large companies that have an established brand


In demonstrating that reading priming messages about Mozilla Firefox can improve users’ perceived performance of Firefox over Google Chrome, we demonstrate a potential opportunity for smaller companies to compete against large companies with an established brand

Particular curated content is more effective than general agenda setting, as the message regarding performance improvements resulted in more endorsement of Firefox as faster than the message about UI updates

Designers and developers must consider the presentation of their software in the media when trying to improve perceived performance

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