WEB Performance Optimization: Basic concepts for a successful process

It is undeniable that technology and marketing show great interest in activities associated with web performance optimization processes. Out there we can read about web speed tools, minimizing CCS and JS files, tips for web server configuration, etc.

Every day more and more organizations use their web applications for important tasks like:

  • Make a good first impression about their brand
  • Supply information about their products and services
  • Obtain information about potential and actual customers
  • Establish an interactive communication with customers
  • Develop loyalty programs
  • Selling their products and services

Therefore, web applications performance has become a key element for the proper functioning of organizations.

During the launch of Test my Site, Google’s new tool to probe and analyze web speed, some interesting and – why not make it clear – terrifying statistics were presented:

  • 25 % of visitors abandon the website if it takes more than four seconds to load.
  • 53 % of mobile users abandon sites that take longer than three seconds to load.
  • The average cost of a website being down is US$ 9000 per minute but the damage to the brand is incalculable
  • A two seconds delay in sales processes implies the shopping cart is abandoned in 87 % of the cases.

However, not all statistics were horrible, we can see the silver lining with these:

  • 30 % of websites can cut their size up to 250 KB just with image and text compression.
  • An improvement of 60% in a home page can imply 40 % of increases in the conversion rate.
  • The loading speed and the conversion rate are directly proportional.

Let’s briefly clarify what is the conversion rate: Every website has one or more goals beyond a casual view or a simple website visit. For example, we would like each visitor to make a reservation, register as a customer, download some product demo, or purchase something.

So, the conversion rate shows the proportion of visitors who make the action we desire and it can be calculated in this way:

WEB Performance Optimization

However, if we consider the pressure of the terrifying statistics and the positive relationship between website improvements and conversion rate, it is pretty natural to think about a web monitoring project that pursues not only improvements on the loading speed but also on their integral optimization.

Any web performance optimization process necessarily confronts some challenges given the way in web applications are designed and developed.

In this post we will try to explore some basic aspects that we have to consider when assuming a WEB application optimization project:

Identify the web application.

It can sound obvious but in an organization with several web and mobile applications, it is a good idea to identify the web application we need to improve or which one we want to start with. For this particular web application, it is necessary to clearly define:

  • Goals or objectives: What do we want to achieve with this website?
  • Conversion: What do we want each visitor to do? What are the desirable actions?
  • Structure: Servers, networks, VLANs and communication provider associated with this particular website.

Describe user experience.

We need to be able to understand and describe user experience when they are browsing our website, from loading speed to how user-friendly the procedure to get more information is. This kind of monitoring is fundamental in order to identify failures, bottlenecks, delays, etc.

There are two main approaches to implement this investigation:

  1. Synthetic transaction monitoring
    This particular kind of monitoring implies scripts executed in real time that simulate actions taken by a final user.This kind of monitoring can identify performance degradation points and availability problems areas, it shows directly which transactions are not working properly and it could be very useful to determine the root cause of a problem in a web application.Synthetic transaction monitoring is not only used for testing web applications that are already online, but also for testing new applications before launch.
  2. Real User Monitoring
    Real user monitoring describes how real visitors interact with a website. It checks each transaction of each userThis kind of monitoring has to be passive, meaning it is necessary an info recollection scheme that does not introduce any effect in the behavior of the websiteRegularly we can use real user monitoring to get information about a customer, like location, operating system, type of devices used to navigate, web browser, etc.

    In the market, there are many interesting automated testing tools that can make our lives easier when we are describing user’s experience.

    Some of them are Selenium, TestingWhiz, and TestComplete. If you are interested, check the options Pandora FMS offers, enterprise or community edition, for which we recommend the following post on this same blog

Define Web performance indicators

The web performance indicators are used to concentrate our optimization efforts on those really important elements and to evaluate the achievements in the optimization process.

If you still only measure the speed and number of visitors you probably are working with wrong indicators.

There are plenty of web performance indicators; metrics from the simple Page Load Time (time from user typing a website address and entering or clicking on a URL and the whole page being rendered) to a more specific Content downloads/requests for more info (number of visitors who make a request or downloads for elements like whitepapers, demos, webinars, etc.)

We can find online a lot of information about WEB Performance indicators; which could be very interesting take a look at. This is a step everybody has to take, study and understand how the indicators work. We recommend a free download book: How to measure your website metrics with Google Analytics.

In order to not get lost in the middle of so much information, we recommend keeping in mind Goals, Conversion and the actual Behavior of our website when choosing the group of indicators to work within a web performance optimization process.

Define a monitoring platform

For a WEB Performance Optimization process, it is critical to count on a well-defined monitoring platform. This platform must be able to:

  • Monitor each server involved (Web, DNS, Database, etc.) no matter which product you used in each case.
  • Make an efficient network monitoring
  • Easily collect and present data generated in the whole structure of our web application
  • Identify and isolate any problematic condition
  • Implement performance indicators
  • Monitor transactions

Pandora FMS has experience in application monitoring. If you are interested, you can get all the information you need at https://pandorafms.com/application-monitoring/#/top