Who is Responsible for Website Performance?

The performance of a website is dependent on complex relationshipsbetween elements including application code, application databases, file serving techniques, hosting infrastructure, the Internet, users browsersand end user computing devices which render the pages.

As a website owner, when you are looking for page performance improvement, where is rightspace to look? Should you talk to your web development team or your web hosting team?How does your DNS provider t into the equation? Should you talk to your databaseadministrator?

The answer is; all of the above, and more. To understand this, it is important to be able to visualise the entire web page delivery chain.

The Traditional PerformanceImprovement Approach

Often, the inclination when addressing website performance is to address thoseareas with which we are most familiar or, those areas where you have most control.However, working in this fashion can be costly, inefficient or, at worst, counterproductive.

Many website hosting organisations and/or website development groups have been tasked wholly and probablyworse, independently, with the responsibility of managing website performance. Focusing only on the hosting, database or web application execution will likely miss a very large part of the web performance equation;that is the delivery and rendering in the browser.

Backend VersusFront End Delivery

In 2012, Steve Souders, working withGoogle, confirmed his earlier studiesconducted in 2007 that;80-90% of the end-userresponse time is spent onthe front end.

Revisiting the diagram above tounderstand the areas of responsibilityin the back end versus front end:

Moving Performance Management toInclude the Front of the Delivery Chain

The highest contribution to website page load times is the front end process of thedelivery and rendering of assets in the users browsers. Therefore, website performance improvement should include activities which deliver improvements in this space.

There are a wide range of sophisticated techniques to improve the front end deliveryprocess targeting:

  • Minimisation of Roundtrip times
  • Reducing Webpage Payload
  • Minimising Request Overheads
  • Optimising Assets for Browser Rendering
  • Optimising Page Load Order for Perceived Speed
  • Decouple the Performance of Third Party Content
  • Maximising Caching through to the Browser
  • Offloading Content to Content Delivery Networks
  • Selection of the Best Content Delivery Networks for the Particular User
  • Allowing HTML to be Cached and Offloaded
  • Mobile Specific Optimisations

The application of these items in isolation can be counterproductive as there are performance optimisationtechniques which are employed to target the above outcomes which incorrectly deployed, or deployed in isolation,can either slow the perceived page performance down, or worse, break the browsing experience completely.

While front end performance management is critical, it may not be enough to focus only on the front end.Problems in the back end delivery chain for websites can still deliver less than optimal browsing experienceseven if the front end activities are appropriately executed.

A holistic approach to performance management is required.

A Better Approach - A Performance Management Solution

Rather than taking on website performance on a piecemeal basis, at Section we recommend implementing a holistic performance management solution. A performance management solution consists of three key components;

Correctly combined and implemented the above three components can deliver consistent improvements in websiteperformance. In turn this will deliver all of the business benefits which accompany having customers or browsersmore engaged and satisfied with your website.