The 20 best web performance links of Q4

Every time I write one of these posts, I’m impressed by the volume and quality of writing that happens in our industry on an ongoing basis. It’s truly an exciting time for web performance. I feel endlessly engaged by the dialogue that happens every day, and honoured to be part of it it.

This roundup (which includes links pulled from the Strangeloop WPO Hub), includes some increasingly refined thinking about mobile optimization, a handful of excellent tutorials and case studies (including some great new presentations from Velocity EU), and some revolutionary browser developments.

But my favourite link is this first one…

The best link of Q4

Retailers need for tech speed
Does it tell us anything new? No. But I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve forwarded this two-minute segment on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” — which discusses the importance of speed for e-commerce sites, particularly for mobile users, during the holiday shopping season. For me, this shows that site speed has finally jumped into the mainstream. I’m excited to see how this attention snowballs in 2012.


Mobile UI Performance
This slide deck from Estelle Weyl’s excellent presentation at Velocity EU gives an overview of mobile performance challenges, why we need to address them differently than we deal with desktop sites, and detailed tips on how to do just that.

Performance Automation 101
This slide deck from Jeroen Tjepkema’s Velocity EU presentation explains what performance automation is, how it works, and why it’s the only viable solution for dealing with the challenges of mobile device/browser fragmentation.

HTML5 Techniques for Optimizing Mobile Performance
Great post on HTML5 Rocks: “In this article, we will discuss the bare minimum of what it takes to create a mobile HTML5 web app. The main point is to unmask the hidden complexities which today’s mobile frameworks try to hide. You will see a minimalistic approach (using core HTML5 APIs) and basic fundamentals that will empower you to write your own framework or contribute to the one you currently use.”

Mobile Performance Manifesto
Love this post from David Calhoun itemizing and describing mobile performance best practices.


How WebPagetest works
If you’ve ever wondered how exactly WebPagetest gathers performance data from the various browsers it simulates, this is great post from Pat Meenan in which he cracks the hood of WebPagetest and explains all that.

Mobile Perf Bookmarklet
Steve Souders offers one mobile bookmarklet to rule them all: a new “master bookmarklet” that lets you install a handful of common debugger and profiler bookmarklets in your mobile broswer in one step.

Is Synthetic Monitoring Really Going to Die?
Alois Reitbauer asks: “Will User Experience Management using JavaScript agents eventually replace synthetic monitoring or will there be a coexistence of both approaches in the end?” As you might guess, the answer is not cut and dried.

Case studies, how-tos, and other research

Diagnosing Slow Web Servers with Time to First Byte
Much as it pains me to admit it, from time to time performance pains aren’t caused at the front end. Performance expert Andy King gives some good tips on how to use the time to first byte metric, as displayed on a waterfall chart, to help diagnose a slow server.

The art and craft of the async snippet
Stoyan Stefanov examines the topic of asynchronous code “from the perspective of a third party – when you’re the third party, providing a snippet for other developers to include on their pages, be it an ad, a plugin, widget, visits counter, analytics, or anything else.”

Why loading third party scripts async is not good enough
We talk about asynchronously loading third-party snippets as if that’s the sole cure for performance pains, but in this case study, Aaron Peters reminds us that sometimes it’s okay to defer their loading until after onload.

Fast Loading JavaScript
Slide deck from performance consultant Aaron Peters’ great Velocity EU presentation: “A walk-through of several JavaScript loading techniques with a characteristics table for each and at the end a decision tree to help you decide which technique to use.”

How Downtime Financially Impacts Top Ecommerce Websites
Compelling infographic showing how downtime affected the Internet Retailer 500 in 2010. Includes the estimate that downtime resulted in more than $300 million in lost revenue for the IR 500.

Testing for Frontend SPOF
Excellent post from Pat Meenan in which he simulates third-party outage with a blackhole server in order to demonstrate — via WebPagetest-generated video — how that outage slows down or disrupts page load.

Browsers and connectivity

SPDY of the Future Might Blow Your Mind Today
Great post (“definitely for protocol geeks”) by Google software engineer Mike Belshe on SPDY’s evolution and how Kindle Silk is taking it beyond other browsers.

Chrome Fast
Slides from Google software engineer Tony Gentilcore’s excellent presentation at Velocity EU, in which he gives an overview of the Chrome platform and explains what makes Chrome fast.

Report reveals drop between peak and off-peak surfing
No big surprise, but a good reminder (especially if you rely on synthetic testing) that real-world performance is a nebulous thing: UK study finds that web speed is up to 69% slower during evening peak time.

The end of an era: Internet Explorer drops below 50% of Web usage
Mark the month and year. November 2011 was the first time in more than a decade that Internet Explorer’s share of global browser usage dropped below 50%.

Opinion pieces

Your CDN is not a silver bullet for web performance
In the e-commerce and SaaS world, the two most common causes of poor web performance are third-party content and server-side processing. Neither of these bottlenecks are addressed by loading static content from a closer location via a content delivery network.

Why you have less than a second to deliver exceptional performance
dynaTrace’s Alois Reitbauer writes: “Being exceptionally fast is becoming the dogma for developing web applications. But what is exceptionally fast and how hard is it to build a top performing web site?” I like posts like this because they remind us what the fundamental questions are that our industry is trying to address.

If you have any other great links to share, let me know in the comments. And if you’re looking for more great links, we have hundreds — sorted by topic, industry, and type — over in the Strangeloop WPO Hub.

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