8 Mar 2013
Tim Morrow has rocked the performance community on at least three distinct occasions.
The first time was at Velocity 2009, when he shared a case study from Shopzilla, where he was senior architect, which presented findings that became a cornerstone of how I and many others talked about the business value of performance. They cut above-the-fold load times down to less than 2 seconds, and as a result saw revenue gains of 5-12%.
From where I sit, it’s pretty hard to top findings like this, but Tim managed to do it when he came back to Velocity a year later and offered an awesomely candid case study showing how Shopzilla took its eye off the ball, performance-wise. As developers were occupied with other projects, load times slowly deteriorated until pages were once again taking 5 or more seconds to load. Customers were quick to notice and complain, which spurred a renewed internal effort to make pages faster.
More recently, as head of sports delivery at Betfair, Tim brings his commitment to customer satisfaction to the creation of another industry first, which he helped launch in the summer of 2011: a customer-facing charter that addresses the issue of page speed and makes a clear pledge to users:
After reliability, we believe that speed is a key feature of our products. We also acknowledge that we have a long way to go but we are working on it. In simple terms we commit to ensure our site becomes faster. To be more specific, we aim for 99.9% of bets placed in less than a second and our aspirational website Service Level Agreement is as follows. Under peak loads, with performance measured at the 95th percentile, for typical user bandwidths and a 0% error rate, our users shall experience Visual Progress (header loaded) in less than 1 second, Time to Interact with useful content within 1.5 seconds and full page loads within 3 seconds.
Like so many of the people I meet in our community, Tim Morrow is a practical idealist when it comes to performance. He has an inspiring combination of aspirational, visionary thinking, and the savvy to back up thought with action. It was my great privilege to speak with him about topics ranging from third-party content to performance testing. I hope you enjoy listening.