On the web speed is essential as demand continually outstrips available bandwidth. This is particularly important in New Zealand as substantial numbers of people are still on dial-up connections and what we call broadband is often still pitiful compared to speeds available overseas. This third workshop with Steve Souders was a very hands-on look at a variety of tools that we can use to find out how fast our websites are and what elements of the site are causing slowness. Steve has written two books both published through O’Reilly: High Performance Web Sites & Even Faster Web Sites.
Tools that we tried out include:
- YSlow add-on for Firefox from Yahoo! and
- PageSpeed extension for the Firebug add-on for FireFox
- DOM Monster bookmarklet
- Blaze.io Mobile Performance Tool
There wasn’t a lot of time to discuss how to improve site performance but a couple of points came up:
- third party snippets are frequently an issue as they’re less concerned about performance,
- nothing on a page below the script is loaded until the script is fully loaded and done processing which is why we’re often advised to put scripts at the bottom of the page. There are other techniques for doing this as well, such as instructing the script not to execute until the page is fully loaded.
As well as looking at some of the most popular New Zealand websites on our laptops those of us with mobile devices were also able to try some mobile-specific tools to see how those same sites did for mobile. Mobile is a huge and quickly growing market and is also more demanding as mobile devices are frequently underpowered so optimising websites for mobile is already an important consideration.