Performance: Speed Matters

Posted by   //  Friday, June 17, 2011

Athletes know that the key to success in their arena hinges on performance. Through training and lifestyle choices they literally engineer their bodies to achieve results, fine tuning every aspect of their game. They know that running faster, jumping higher, and throwing farther than their competitor will give them a critical edge.

In a similar way, the performance of the website is one of the most important but often neglected aspects of development. And virtually any website can experience benefits from fine-tuning its performance.

Four Key Reasons to Fine Tune Website Performance

With so many people using a broadband connection, what’s the value of fine tuning the performance of website? Here are four key reasons:

  1. Not everyone has broadband. Access is growing, but there are many people who still lack broadband access. This is especially true in the case of international audiences.
  2. Latency—the amount of time from the moment a user requests a web file to the time it is delivered—plays a major role in customer retention. Moments count, and the longer the user must wait, the more likely he is to navigate somewhere else.  This is true not only for the homepage (but critical there), but also for the rest of the site.
  3. Search engines notice. The performance of your site is actively noted by search engines,  and it can have a direct impact on rankings. Sites that perform well have a better chance of being understood as relevant for the end-user.
  4. Mobile is major, and growing. 3G data connections may be common enough but average speeds are still much less than cable or DSL connections. 4G, while becoming more available,  is a smaller fraction of the market due to less coverage, higher costs, and specialized devices.

A Multi-Faceted Approach to Improving Performance

Unfortunately, many prepackaged website tools and templates don’t render optimized code and assets as they attempt one-size-fits-all solutions. This can lead to unnecessary bloat and unacceptable load times.

In reality, when it comes to improving performance, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Rather, it’s a package deal, a combination of:

  • load-balancing
  • server environment and settings
  • applications
  • coding
  • file management
  • optimization techniques

These all play important roles in the speed of a website or application, particularly when targeting mobile devices.

Of course the fastest site to load is one without graphics, media, or interactivity, but it’s also the least useful. On the flip side, it’s important to understand the impact of each component of the site and properly balance that impact with the quality of end-user experience.

This type of strategic analysis and improvement can dramatically affect the speed of a website, thereby making it more user-friendly, accessible, and search-engine relevant.

Post a Comment

Thank you for your informative blog. I’m working on my missions website now and I’m a noob.

By Matthew on Mon, June 20, 2011 - 6:26 pm

Matthew—great to hear, I’m glad that you’re finding the information useful.

By Mark Knoles on Mon, June 20, 2011 - 7:36 pm

Great post, I had no idea that search engines notice the speed of a site.

By Andrew Pinch on Mon, June 20, 2011 - 10:04 pm

Andrew—thanks. Google officially added load time as a factor just last year. Relevant content is still one of the most important aspects of SEO, but if slow load times significantly affect the user experience it can have a negative impact on rankings.

By Mark Knoles on Mon, June 20, 2011 - 11:06 pm