August 22, 2017
Site performance often has the perception of being an afterthought or a concern to worry about when a problem arises. There are so many facets to analyze to fully understand what issues your users may be having that can greatly affect revenue or the success of your site.
This is the second part of a three part series:
- Part 1: Web Server Tweaks to Make Your Users Happy: Site Performance
- Part 2: Benefits of Performance Budgets and Real User Monitoring: Site Performance (You are Here!)
- Part 3: Images: Design Performance and Perception: Site Performance
In order to gauge success of web performance, it is important to set a performance budget. A budget consists of rules or guidelines that the whole team (including content creators) should stick to as they build or maintain a site.
Performance budgets typically get broken down into two phases:
- Developing a Site or Feature: Set a goal or budget for the internal teams building the site to keep them in check during the development phase. Keeping performance at top of mind as you build a site can avoid very challenging (and costly) fixes later. This is the more involved phase to plan for, but it’s always best to think about performance constraints from day one.
- Monitoring a Live Site: All members of a team should be familiar with tools that hold the team accountable for decreased performance. As new features or content is added to the site, alerts can help the team make immediate changes to avoid any long-term damage.
Additional References: The Concept of Web Performance
Real User Monitoring
Real User Monitoring (RUM) can uncover barriers for the user as they pertain to UX or performance as well as the impact they can have on revenue. RUM usually involves installing a beacon of code on your site to help track the user’s performance. Many online tools try to emulate a user experience, but nothing beats data gathered from your actual users.
Real User Monitoring Tools
There are many tools available that can review a site from an outsider’s perspective (i.e., one with no access to tracking tags or analytics tools). These tools follow rigid rules for performance, accessibility, and best practices. The resulting reports are a much more actionable list of fixes; but beware, the results don't come from one change, but often a collection of them.
Images are almost always a performance bottleneck in these reports. Often teams aren't properly serving smaller-sized images for responsive/mobile sites or even the correct file format (JPG vs. PNG vs. WebP) based on the browser or device they are using. The performance benefits are immediately noticeable when image-heavy pages (or sites) load faster and “feel” snappier to the user. There are services available, such as cloudinary, that help automate and serve proper-sized images and formats on the fly.
Web Performance Tools
Future of Web Performance
In all my years of doing web development, site performance has always been a concern. The issue of performance won’t change anytime soon (especially when it is tied to revenue). The more we are aware of site performance optimization as developers, marketers, content creators, and designers, the more successful our efforts will be for our end users.