Your team should be performing some type of web performance audit as a part of their normal process. Web sites with custom fonts and graphics are great to look at, but if it takes more than a second to load we instantly begin to question the site. Google began factoring page loading speed into search engine rankings quite a while ago because they knew poor performing websites gave their users a bad impression of Google as well. There’s also plenty of data showing drop off rates of users as performance decreases. If you consider your site “slow” you should set out to do a performance audit.
Below you’ll find a basic outline of what a web performance audit could entail. You’ll likely find the results leading you to make some visual changes to your site, you’ll do everyone a favor by buying your designers Laura Hogan’s book Designing for Performance.
Identify Peformance Audit Goals
Gather as much data surrounding the perceived performance metrics available to you. I used to be surprised at how rarely people utilize subjective data points when monitoring something as specific and concrete as performance. Slow or fast is not data, set up some performance monitoring tools before even begin your evaluation. In addition to external monitoring make sure you install something like New Relic on the servers to collect more detailed application level data.
Audit Contributed Code
This is an ongoing process and you should already have quite a bit of data around this, right? Unfortunately quite a bit of community/contributed code is simply added based on a quick read of the description. Generate a list of all contributed modules/plugins/libraries on your site, including front end and research if any of these have known performance bottlenecks. Take this time to also confirm what functionality you are actually using from this code. We often find that a single or set of lines of code are all that one needs and not the 1000+ line module the client has installed.
Review Custom Code
Depending on how old your site/application is this could take anywhere from a day to a month. If you are running this audit for your own site start small and use the data from your initial scans to review the most egregious performance offenders. Similar to the contributed code, you’ll often find excess “baggage” if your application is a year or older that can be discarded. Ensure you’ve completed an entire review before actually discarding of course.
Run Performance Tools
jMeter is an Open Source testing software. It is 100% pure Java application for load and performance testing. jMeter is designed to cover categories of tests like load, functional, performance, regression, etc., and it requires JDK 5 or higher.
New Relic is a Software Analytics company that makes sense of billions of metrics across millions of apps. We help the people who build modern software understand the stories their data is trying to tell them.
Nagios Core is the monitoring and alerting engine that serves as the primary application around which hundreds of Nagios projects are built. It serves as the basic event scheduler, event processor, and alert manager for elements that are monitored.
This, as you can tell, is our newest favorite for external monitoring of site performance. We are building out a full performance monitoring in a box that you can install on your local machines. Sitespeed.io is an open source tool that helps you analyze your website speed and performance based on performance best practices and timing metrics. It collects data from multiple pages on your website, analyzes them using the rules and outputs the result as HTML or send the metrics to Graphite.
During the engagement provide daily feedback as well as an in process Performance Assessment Report covering the necessary changes required. Upon completion of the audit create a finalized Performance Assessment Report. The final report will outline both future changes necessary as well as testing results and changes made during the engagement.
We Can Help
At the end of the day, some audits take experience to identify and fix the issues at hand. If you feel like you are over your head, let us know.