Category : Best Practices

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Every quarter at Radware, we measure and analyze the performance of the top 500 retail websites. And every quarter, I’ve grown accustomed to the persistence of two trends: pages are growing bigger and, not coincidentally, slower.

But while I expected to see some growth and slowdown in our latest research — released this week in our State of the Union: Ecommerce Page Speed & Web Performance [Summer 2014] — I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting to see this much.

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When you consider how many things have to happen before anything begins to appear in the browser — from DNS lookup and TCP connection to parsing HTML, downloading stylesheets, and executing JavaScript — 1-second render times seem like an impossible dream. In our most recent State of the Union for ecommerce performance, we found that start render time for the top 500 retailers was 2.9 seconds. In other words, a typical visitor sits and stares at a blank screen for almost 3 seconds before he or she even begins to see something. Not good.

I talk a lot about page bloat, insidious third-party scripts, the challenges of mobile performance, and all the other things that make hitting these goals seem like an impossible feat. But rather than get discouraged, let me point you toward this great quote from Ilya Grigorik in his book High Performance Browser Networking:

“Time is measured objectively but perceived subjectively, and experiences can be engineered to improve perceived performance.”

Keep reading to find out about some tricks and techniques you can use to manipulate subjective time to your advantage.

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My recent post about page growth (or page shrinkage, as the case may be) hit a nerve with a lot of people, so this week I thought I’d take my first dive into the Mobile HTTP Archive, the mobile counterpoint to the HTTP Archive I cited last week. The Mobile HTTP Archive tests the same list of URLs, but it does so using smartphones. This means that if a URL redirects to a mobile site, the Archive tests the mobile site.

Just like last week, I looked at the top 1,000 URLs. What I found won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been following this blog for a while. While there are many similarities between these findings and last week’s, there are also a number of insights that are unique to mobile devices.

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According to the HTTP Archive, the average top 1,000 web page is 1491 KB in size, 5% smaller than it was six months ago, when the average page reached a record size of 1575 KB.

But let’s not start celebrating yet.

Does this finding represent the start of a new trend toward smaller pages, or is it just an isolated incident? To answer this question, we need to take a look into the Archive’s other findings.

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Yesterday on Twitter, I posted a link to this Internet Retailer article about the results of a recent Keynote mobile index report. The report found that only two out of the 30 sites in the index use responsive design, and both those sites took 17+ seconds to load on mobile devices.

My Twitter post (sorry, I just can’t say “tweet”) generated some discussion about the challenges of making fast responsive pages, with some folks taking the stance that RWD and performance don’t play well together. This isn’t a new opinion, and it’s sparked a lot of debate in the past. (See this post from Tim Kadlec and this one from Guy Podjarny for excellent examples.)