Does Traditional Web Performance Still Matter?

More than two years ago, I created a post that was frank in its statement that Web performance measurement isn’t just a technology issue, it’s a business issue.

As we approach 2012, a new question is driving how I examine the world I work in: Does traditional Web performance still matter?

Seems drastic and will raise the ire of more than a few folks I know, but it is a valid point of discussion. The entire Web performance industry needs to look around and determine how they got where they are and what the world will look like in 5 years.

The “Web” as it was defined when I started in the industry was simple – browser and page driven, with a growing focus on delivering services to visitors. Now, there is no definition of “Web” that can encompass everything that can be used when talking to companies. And in many cases, if asked, companies may not fully understand how customers interact with their online properties on a daily basis.

I used to be able to say what determined fast Web performance. Now, the simple answer is irrelevant, replaced with the reality of “It depends”. Fast is completely dependent on what is being done, when and where is it happening, how things being done, and who is driving the way it is is done.

I am issuing a challenge to the entire Web performance industry: Step back and and ask yourself if we are asking and answering the right questions for the companies we work with.

If we don’t find out now, in 5 years it won’t matter.

Categories: Effective Web Performance, The Web, Web Performance, Web performance concepts


  1. Totally agree. Which is why we built a Mobile browser that can measure the experience that the user gets. Including the current geo-location, device OS and carrier network information.
    Everybody wants to measure everything at the web server. And they forget thats not what the customer experiences in their hand.

    • While I agree, the whole perspective is required as well. External performance, either synthetic or real user, supplements server metrics. These then supplement business metrics, creating an inclusive perspective that provides proactive information about how customers experience your online business.

      • Agreed – the more context the more you can measure (whilst dealing with the observer effect).
        Essentially what you end of with is a Quality of Experience number.

        • The key is to unify quantitative performance metrics to qualitative experience values. These are not mutually exclusive, but the audiences they resonate with are usually siloed in an organization.
          How does performance affect customer behavior, and how do changes in the way customers interact with a company relate to experience/performance.
          Not an easy correlation to put in in front of a company in anything other than s theoretical way, especially when the “silver bullet” is expected.

          • Hmmm… subjective vs. objective. There’s no silver bullet here. Our approach to speeding up the web (we’re the inventors of mod_gzip) is to send less data. That was step one. Step two is to send not only less data but more relevant data.
            That’s the really hard part as you need context. Performance envelopes are not usually integrated alongside personalization techniques so the end result is always difficult to quantify.
            However that said, if I was to offer a simple metric it would be this:
            0 – behavioral changes
            1 – single sign on
            2 – second response time
            3 – clicks to relevant content
            Now you can start to tie quantitative (webkit events in real time) with qualitative (relevance of content for Me, My Device and My current Location).
            The combination of those two will reveal variances within data silos.

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