Benjamin Read's code garden.

Why Performance Matters

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This article is about: engineering

Performance seems to be increasingly becoming a battleground for those of us who create websites. How has this situation arisen? How do we cope with these new requirements? How do we ensure our sites and web apps (sorry, Jeremy) don’t suffer because of changing landscapes of user — and search engine — requirements.

”Everyone has broadband now. Therefore, we no longer need to be concerned about site load times” said nobody, ever. But we may have assumed that the advent of much beeefier data plans would mean that load times could become a lower priority.

This assumption ignores the fact that users could be on slower mobile networks. This has been discussed at length elsewhere. But a conversation I had recently highlighted another area that concerns a threat to the web as a whole.

When Mobile is Not Mobile #

Mobile device users are unique in that they have a choice … they have apps on their devices which might be able to perform a similar task to what they’re trying to achieve on your website.

A good example of this is a booking system. Does your website load — and respond — quickly enough for them? That window of opportunity is now measured in milliseconds, not seconds. Will they decide to use a booking system they already have on their device instead? Will they use a search, throwing up all kinds of alternative possibilities for an entertaining evening out.

This ‘user abandonment’ doesn’t just impact on your site, on solely your service. It has wider implications.

A Performance Win is A Web Win #

If people are turning away from their browsers and towards their devices, then how is that going to impact the web in the future? Could the web eventually be relegated to a second-fiddle service, which users only turn to as a backup?

Haven’t we seen that model before though? When there was no wifi, where users would have apps on their local devices simply because they couldn’taccess the web on the go. I remember taking screenshots of Google Maps data so that I could find my way around the wilds of Mid Wales. Although that’s perhaps going back a step too far, I personally don’t want to lose the web — not for all of its uncontrollable, unfathomable aggregation of data, truthful and otherwise, that abounds.

The web is still the portal to knowledge, to education, to opinion. It’s the unique frontier, where anything can happen. If we were to lose the sense of what that means to the average user, then we have lost something quite unique, perhaps forever.”

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“Wisest are they who know they do not know.”

— Jostein Gaarder