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Jennifer Kyrnin

Poll: Do you worry about download speed of your pages?

By January 10, 2013

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It seems to me like worrying about web download speed is something that goes in and out of fashion. It will be all the rage for a while as some new technology comes in to make it possible to shave off some miliseconds or some other disruptor makes people think slow is bad. But then it gets tedious for all but the most die-hard speed demons and most designers seem to stop worrying about it until it comes back into fashion again. Do you worry about how fast your pages download? Why or why not?

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January 15, 2013 at 8:17 am
(1) Red says:

Historically, we (the company I work for) haven’t considered speed a very important factor. We use a content delivery network (CDN) to deliver images, videos, CSS, and other (relatively) static assets, and we know how many requests per minute our servers can handle, but that was about the extent of our performance concerns.

However, in the last month, one of our sites underwent a redesign to bring it up to snuff in comparison with the customer’s other sites, and suddenly, we were sinking. The website’s homepage went from 1.5MB total asset delivery (of which less than 500kb was served from our servers) to 5.5MB. Although the bandwidth that is being served by our servers didn’t change very much, the new structure of the page (fly-out menus, multiple jcarousel slideshows, etc.) resulted in longer build and delivery times for our assets (from 2 seconds before the redesign to 15 seconds after – total page delivery, including all third-party assets went from 10 seconds to 45 seconds). This slowed our servers down, which slowed page build down, which slowed the servers down more, ad infinitum, and ultimately crashed all of those servers (and the site). We have since made some changes that brought the build time back down to about 5 seconds (15-20 seconds total delivery time), but we’re looking for more ways to trim the build time.

We are now using webpagetest.org to track all of our websites’ home page loading behaviors on a weekly basis. It’s not a very interactive tool, but it does give a reasonable amount of insight into what parts of the page are causing poor performance on load times. Testing weekly helps keep us on top of any changes that occur, helping us nip performance problems in the bud.

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