Background to the "Forgotten Art of Web Performance"

Image courtesy of Wedo Photography

I wanted to write a little bit of background to why I gave this talk at WDCNZ. I got hassled a little bit by the other presenters on why I gave this talk.¬†That web performance was “Old Hat” and companies have known about this for 5 years. That’s correct, but very very few companies are doing it right especially in New Zealand. I would have loved to give a talk on advanced web performance techniques like Varnish and Edge Side Includes or how to handle 10K requests a second on a VM.¬†BUT with the data from my Web page test results, fewer than 10% websites in New Zealand are doing it right.

Here’s the facts, if all New Zealand websites did four things

  • Turn on web compression
  • set expiry properly for images css and JS,
  • Bundle JS and CSS files
  • use image spriting

Every New Zealand website would be TWICE AS FAST.

I do a lot of Research and Development on web performance, I do consulting and I talk to a lot of companies about web performance. What I find the companies don’t understand enough about the operational side of their websites ie what is happening at the webserver and database. Some of the basic principles about how web sites scale is completely oblivious to some developers. eg. the difference between dynamic and static content.

In my talk I had to pick one site which has had all of the characteristics of bad web performance. Unfortunately the newstalkzb was the one that I choose. I could have been chosen several other websites. There are a lot of really really bad preforming websites. (As a sector blogs and news sites have a lot of work to do to improve performance)

I was thinking of a what to highlight just how “backward” the thinking in Web performance in modern terms. I came up with an idea of what was the worst html techniques that no web developer in their right mind would use today. So I made the correlation between 1990’s web design and bad web performance traits. Just as we have moved on from those designs to better designs, we need to progress web performance to next level in NZ. Its not hard to make significant performance wins.

I want developers and companies to take professional pride in their work and do a good job. I have seen very talent company release a website for a blue chip client with a 122 CSS files, which caused the site to take over 10 seconds to load. I’m sorry I can’t that seriously. Not very professional! I would want my company to be associated with kickass, innovative, FAST websites.

For those that have asked me, here is the video

How ugly is bad web performance from John Clegg on Vimeo.

WPO setting = BAD Design
No HTTP compression = Blink text
Poor expiry settings on static assets = Marquee text
No Javascript / No CSS bundling = Comic Sans font
No Image Spriting = Animated Gifs

Thanks to Martin Hipp for hacking the HTML for me!

Mobile is our future

Web Performance is even more important is Mobile. All of the web performance strategies and tactics are a lot more relevant with mobile as network latency is much much worse. The top minds in web performance are now starting to focus on Mobile, as a result the tools and best practices are being defined as we speak.

Should how we fix it?

Service companies must make it a priority with their clients. I bet that clients expect that their website will be the fastest possible. They do not understand that it has to built that way.

The best way to make Web performance happen is to make it a part of the build process of your website. There are plenty of tools to make Javascript and CSS bundling a part of your build and deployment process of your website. Then Web optimisation happens automagically everytime!

For service companies, creating a common build process with bunding and image spriting will become a small incremental cost that can be re-applied across all your clients.

If that sounds like too much work then look at mod_pagespeed module for apache or commercial solution Aptimize

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