The need for speed: Part one

Welcome to 2019, where we all want everything instantly. With mobile phones and phone networks supporting 5G, binge-watching box sets on Netflix is a common favourite past-time, and watching iPlayer while on your commute to work makes the journey just that bit more bearable.

But what about shopping on your mobile phone? With large retail websites often cumbersome and slow, sadly the promise of joyful retail therapy on-the-go can prove short-lived, with studies suggesting that delays on mobile phones can cause as much stress as watching a horror movie or even solving a complex mathematical problem.

Need-for-speed amnesia

With growing improvements to our mobile network connectivity and websites moving from mobile versions (remember the m. subdomains?) to responsive designs, we have forgotten that we still need to transfer data to mobile phones – which has resulted in websites loading more slowly than we would expect in today’s world.

There are various approaches to tackle this need-for-speed amnesia, including AMP and by setting a performance budget for any and all people who touch a website.

Page speed optimisation

Page speed optimisation and improvements have always been tricky, and unfortunately, it is still very common that loose and unclear recommendations are shared without adequate guidance. Think about ‘compress images’, ‘ensure caching has been enabled’ and of course ‘reduce render blocking resources’; common examples of vague speed-improving suggestions offered by even the savviest of page-speed experts. Admittedly I too have been guilty of this – but it is time for a change.

Websites are like bank accounts

I am a firm believer that we should look at a website as if it were a bank account, with various metrics being the cash deposited within and the account balance being the total budget available to spend. With a limited budget available, careful consideration should be taken to ensure that the budget is spent wisely.

By following a budget framework as such, we will be able to remove the unnecessary resources and dissect others that could be blocking the rendering of the page. By understanding what each resource does, other tactics can be applied, including (but not limited to) ‘prefetching’, ‘preconnecting’ to CDNs and of course allowing JavaScript to be loaded asynchronously. 

This way of approaching page load speed enhancement will provide more guidance and clarity to developers and associated teams. Having a performance budget framework in place will also provide a great opportunity for periodical measurements of how well a website is improving following the more detailed work.

Now is the time to stop being vague with page speed recommendations and to work more closely together with developers to ensure that they receive the best guidance possible!

How do you deal with the page speed of your website? Reach out to us! And watch out for part 2 of the series, in which we’ll be delving further into what impacts website speed and the steps you can take to speed things up.

by Kevin Ellen
16 July 2019



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