For some reason, I thought that the past few months had been kind of quiet on the research front, so when I started this post, I thought it would be one of my shortest roundups yet. I was pleasantly surprised to watch it grow to become one of the longest!
There are some great case studies here, of both large and small sites, which I love to see. There’s also some truly excellent debate about responsive design and the mobile web, sparked by a post from Jakob Nielsen last spring, as well as some good stuff about the browser wars and third-party content. So enough with the intro. Let’s get into it.
A casual performance optimizer details her efforts to get Retr-O-Mat’s average load times under 2 seconds. Good information for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of front-end optimization (FEO).
After performing poorly in a 2011 web performance comparison of leading retailers, Crate and Barrel made WPO a priority moving forward. This blog post from Catchpoint shows just how “beautiful” their performance has been in 2012.
Responding to a flood of user frustrations with their website, the IT team at the Washington Post rolled out a number of performance upgrades to their site over the past year. Find out what they did to improve their page speed by 32.4%.
Tips and how-tos
If “faster connectivity and more bandwidth won’t save us,” then what will? Google’s Ilya Grigorik shares his insight on making the web faster in this in-depth slide deck, and he draws some very interesting conclusions.
The human perception of time is anything but linear, and with just minor visual tricks, it gets even more skewed. After reading this post, you may never trust a progress bar again.
More cool perceptual tricks. The “secret sauce” behind Instagram’s stellar user experience is rooted in a combination of coding tricks aimed at giving users a feeling of constant responsiveness. Find out how their site “always pretends to work.”
As Mike Belshe points out, web page resources routinely fail, but thanks to the ever-handy reload/refresh button, we can often solve these problems ourselves. With mobile browsing, however, the rules are different. Find out what this means for the future of HTML 5.
Performance evangelist Steve Souders focuses his performance research strictly on the mobile web – not on native apps. Why? He’s got more than a few good reasons.
A solid webcast on the complex world of mobile development, touching on topics including Responsive Web Design (RWD), server-side device detection, and HTML5 performance on mobile.
Jakob Nielsen believes that mobile and full sites should be entirely different entities. Summarizing his argument, he states that “good mobile user experience requires a different design than what’s needed to satisfy desktop users. Two designs, two sites, and cross-linking to make it all work.”
From Net magazine: Jakob Nielsen’s assertion that “good mobile user experience requires a different design” is being challenged by a noted mobile expert, who argues that rather than stripping down for mobile, companies should be doing more.
More counterpoint to Nielsen’s post. Smashing Magazine’s Bruce Lawson argues that mobile redirection is unreliable, and excluding features for mobile browsers “perpetuates the digital divide.”
Still more Nielsen backlash: Brad Frost states that, though mobile browsers are getting better at rendering full websites, creating adaptive sites for mobile users is essential to improving the user experience.
Interesting piece explaining how static pages needing an upgrade can vastly improve mobile user engagement through the addition of HTML5. The new release features interactive galleries, overlays, and expandable/collapsible boxes, driving up pageviews and decreasing bounce rates.
Google Analytics has expanded its collection of Site Speed reports with a new feature called User Timings. The feature enables tracking of specific load times for discrete hits, images, and other user interactions.
More from Google. The latest version of mod_spdy – an Apache module that adds SPDY server support – is intended to fix bugs found in the original release.
The Speed Index metric has been added to WebPagetest, helping measure the speed at which page contents are visually populated. The tool is especially useful for comparing page experience before and after optimization.
Lifehacker conducts it’s semi-regular browser speed tests, pitting the four titans of desktop browsing against each other in races for startup speed, tab loading times, and other performance indicators.
An interesting companion read to the Lifehacker piece, New Relic’s “Speed Wars” study shows that, while IE 9 speeds past other browsers on Windows, Chrome 13 on Mac was overall the fastest experience. In mobile speed tests, the fastest experience was delivered by Blackberry Opera Mini at 2.6 seconds, twice as fast as Safari 5.1 on iPad.
Ilya Grigorik demonstrates how Google Chrome hides latency from users. Interesting stuff here.
From Ars Tecnica: “The browser wars are back on in earnest. For the second time in three months, Internet Explorer made large gains, picking up almost 1 point of market share. Chrome, Firefox, and Safari all lost out, as Internet Explorer 9 won over new users.”
Server configurations come in all shapes and sizes, which means a one-size-fits-all CDN is seldom effective. Find out which Level 3 customer was the beneficiary of a custom CDN solution and how it worked out.
Murphy’s Law reigned supreme throughout June, with a flood of large-scale outages taking down some of the world’s most popular websites. Given the inevitability of online failures, third-party providers must be prepared to deal with the worst. The folks at Catchpoint outline the 10 Golden Rules by which all third-party providers should live by.
Are third-party vendors ignorant to the consequences of slow web performance? According to Catchpoint they are, as they detail a story of one such vendor who was completely unaware of the performance impact of their product.
Interesting findings from TRUSTe: Despite the prevalence of privacy policies, over two-thirds of trackers on UK websites originate from third-party companies, and almost half embed themselves permanently.
Google announced that they’ve improved performance of the +1 button and Google+ badge. By reducing the size of the js/plusone.js loader and making the code smarter, page elements now load 20% faster.
Application provider Bazaarvoice is delving into the realm of front-end performance, and provides an interesting third-party perspective.
Opinions and analysis
When Facebook began trading on May 18, 2012, a series of performance failures on Nasdaq.com caused a huge headache for the company. This article from Intechnica asks how much these badly timed hiccups cost investors.
Steve Souders kicked off O’Reilly’s Velocity video podcast series with an in-depth discussion of the state of web performance optimization. Key topics included measuring slowness, performance monitoring tools, and whether mobile disrupts performance.
As a complex and interdependent system, the web is prone to catastrophe at the highest levels. In this fascinating paper on resilience engineering, presented at Velocity 2012, Dr. Richard Cook outlines the reasons why all complex systems are intrinsically hazardous, why disaster is always just around the corner, and how failure-free operations still require experience with failure.
I don’t usually pimp my own writing here, but this information is too important not to share. I wrote a piece for GigaOM showing that the average page size is now over 1MB, according to the HTTP Archive. At current growth rates, the average page could hit 2MB by 2015, which is a really big deal, especially for mobile users.
Some fascinating findings here. Google’s Site Speed Reports provides detailed latency data for page load times by separating data according to device, location, and industry.
These links were all sourced from Strangeloop’s Web Performance Hub, which contains hundreds (and by now, possibly even thousands) of industry-wide links, organized by topic, source, research type, and industry. It’s a pretty good resource, if I do say so. If you have any new links to recommend, let me know.