Optimizing for Speed: 4 Site Performance Activities

February 03, 2016 Ryan Horner

Easily taken for granted when it works, but just as easily noticed when it doesn’t: page load speed. According to a recent study, the average user has no more than 3 seconds of patience for load time before abandoning a site. Slow load time for your website – especially if it is a result of back-end build problems – has also proven to severely affect SEO rankings with Google (Moz speaks more to this here).

We suggest optimizing your website by employing all four of these activities to avoid potential areas for bottlenecks to affect load speed:

Database Performance Analysis
This activity allows you to catch and resolve, through either revision or caching, any SQL actions that are causing performance bottlenecks. In other words, keeping a close eye on what could potentially slow down performance, and resolving those issues early on in the web development process. We suggest using SQL Profiler to do this analysis.

Load Testing
Load Testing allows you to review the site to ensure it can continue to function with increased load on the page. This tool specifically allows us to add load to the site and perform burn-in or break tests. We suggest using WAPT for this kind of testing.

Code-Level Performance Analysis
Code-Level Performance Analysis allows you to identify and resolve any lines of code that are impacting the site or individual page performance. We prefer to use Red Gate ANTS Profiler.

Total Page and Resource Size Analysis
This overall site analysis allows you to see the total size of pages and all resources, highlighting any 404s for resource files from your site. In general, this analysis allows you to resolve simple things that have a big impact on the end user experience. We like to use Fiddler and Chrome Dev Tools for this activity.

A Multi-Variable Problem
It’s important to note that the amount of time it takes for a website to load is dependent on many variables. Whether it’s the device you’re using, the browser, general internet congestion, local network issues, other activity taking place on your device or even ISP bandwidth and latency, there could be a plethora of reasons behind why a site isn’t loading. But what it’s really about in these situations is creating optimum page load experience for every potential permutation. You can’t solve for every possible scenario, but you can create an environment that allows for the most promising results. In addition to the optimization activities above, it is important to consider the following:

Design
Is the design of your site hindering the experience of your users due to load time? It’s good to consider the tradeoffs in design with a very modern, interactive experience and a page that loads quickly in all scenarios. It might also be helpful to consider an approach to design that delivers progressive enhancements in the page experience.

Analytics
It’s also important to understand through analytics research what the profile of your current user’s bandwidth is as well as what devices are mostly commonly used by those browsing your site. This can give more validation to the decisions you’re making in terms of site build.

Balancing robust web design with efficient load speed is an ongoing challenge for technologists and site designers alike. Hopefully, by covering your bases with these suggestions, you can ensure fast performance of your site for your users.

Speaking of dynamically designed sites, check out our recent Site Design Feature of the Month post, highlighting a beautiful example of professional services web design: kekselias.com.

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Ryan Horner Managing Director, Technology

As Managing Director of Technology, Ryan is responsible for overseeing One North’s strategy related to technical applications, systems and client implementations. He got his start at age seven, programming an Apple IIe.

  • Last thing you geeked-out about: This happens on a daily basis, oftentimes to the internet of things coming to life and novel uses of the technology-enabled sharing economy – or some combination of the two.
  • Most unusual job: I grew up on a working farm, so I've had lots of unusual jobs: baling straw, sweeping bins, cleaning a cattle barn, etc. 

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