Overview of Website Performance and Website Speed optimization

The performance of websites was always a critical non-functional requirement.  A better performing site directly translates into better user experience, repeated site visits, and hence increased revenues. A fast performing site invariably provides a competitive edge as well. Also these sites are often indexed faster by search engines and often appear at the top of search results.

An ever increasing expectation for performance of websites means that Web pages need to be designed to be optimal and fast rendering. Many a times, websites lose their customers in a blink of an eye if they are a sub-second slower than their competitors.

This blog post discusses this critical non-functional requirement, methods to achieve it, and draws examples from various real-world scenarios. Most of modern applications follow layered architecture mainly consisting of three key Layers: presentation layer, business layer and integration layer. An optimization approach invariably involves all the layers. This blog post mainly focuses on the optimizations in the presentation layer.

Need for Speed

Not long back even a 2-second page response time was considered as an acceptable one. however, web users have become increasingly impatient when it comes to speed these days. earlier, speed was considered a feature and now it is deemed a necessity. Additionally, technological innovation in mobile space has raised the bar for speed.  hence, speed makes a lot of economic sense now.

A recent research found that 250-450 milliseconds are the magical numbers that decide the winner in the race of web speed1. research also indicates that the slower the site, the lesser would be the number of clicks and transactions performed on the site, which would eventually result in the loss of users.

Strategies of presentation layer performance optimization

There are broadly two main categories adopted for website speed optimization and performance optimization:

Bottom-up strategy: This involves carefully laying out the ground rules for performance based on required SLAs and design / develop the pages by adopting the principles laid out. This is the preferred approach that involves optimization in both presentation layer design and development.

Top-down strategy: This is a reactive strategy which involves doing a post-mortem of pages when any performance issue is discovered. This involves analysing the page components and targeting the optimizations which reap big and quick benefits and iteratively enhance other components. This is potentially costly and the cost mainly depends on the phase during which the issue is uncovered.

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