Web Performance: The Big Picture

As the web platform continues to evolve very quickly, new technologies and development techniques spring up even more rapidly.

It has become alarming how much slow sites are on the web today, one of the reasons being the drastic shift of the web from a document-centric platform to a much more dynamic application platform — the web is more powerful than ever, making it possible for users to get virtually any experience on the web — and that’s awesome, really.

However, the web really is getting slower. It’s quite unfortunate that a lot of web teams and businesses just want a “magical solution” not realizing there’s no one antidote to poor performance of sites; there’s no one tech or approach that’s going to make websites or the web platform as a whole fast automagically, which is why in my opinion, engineering teams should prioritize performance at every phase of the design sprint for a product.

In this article, we’ll be talking about why web performance really matters. So, let’s dive right in!

Why Performance matters

In one word, performance is about your users. Users. That’s why performance matters. You’re building a product for people to use it, right? Whether you’re building your portfolio, a news site, or a more dynamic experience like Facebook, you want people to use your stuff; and users in a lot of cases means success, same way, success means profit if it’s a business!

However, for people to interact seamlessly with your application or website, it has to be accessible. Note that “accessible” here is more about showing content to your users quickly at least, and if possible, making the most basic feature work. Diving deeper, optimizing performance for users means providing a great user experience overall.

Let’s see how doing this is of benefit to our businesses and products.

Web Performance meets User Experience

Now that we know a little about why performance matters, let’s talk more about how great performance and poor performance impact user experience.

Great performance means great user experience; great user experience translates to retaining users, and that means more users! You want people to go to your site and do what ever the site was made for. If it’s an e-commerce site, you want people to go there, sign up, and buy or sell stuff. If it’s a business, you want users to use your product, talk about your it, share it, bring more users, and get more revenue. Performance plays a great role in this because:

If your site is slow to load or make the most basic feature possible to use, your users get tired of waiting, and discouraged. Nobody wants to spend the whole day waiting for your site or app to load to be able to perform a task, because, remember, it’s the world wide web: for the most part, there are alternatives to your product, you have competitors. So, once a user thinks your platform would to take too much of their time, they want to leave and go to another site that offers close to or exactly what your site offers.

Also, in rare cases where there’s no alternative to your product, the users either get frustrated up to the level they want quit your platform totally, or they just leave your site and go somewhere else, and that can be bad for business.

Again, poor performance means more cost for the users — Yes, cost. We know the web is becoming a mobile-dominant platform. Mobile means movable — the users can take the web with them wherever they go, and as such, they can’t determine network conditions or expect to get a certain network quality in such situations. So, your user might have no choice other than to access your site on a 2G network. If your site is not optimized for such conditions, the user becomes increasingly tired of trying to access it because of the time spent and the cost of trying subsequently over such conditions. Note that “cost” also includes real cost for data plans.

On the contrary…

Great performance can be perceived as a site that delivers what matters quickly. The user gets to your site, for example a social networking app optimized for poor network and hardware conditions — which of course requires deliberate commitment by the engineering and product team as a whole at every process. Imagine your user is able to view at least 10% of relevant content (useful-to-user content) on your app (maybe text posts from friends without images), or the user gets a very minimal version of your site on a poor network, take m.facebook.com for example. That’s an awesome experience because even if the user is engaged with <10% of your platform, it’s much more better than losing the user totally, which is less than, or sometimes 0%. This way, the user is able to interact with your app, and of course, instills in the mind of your users that your site is always a go-to no matter the network condition. That makes a better user experience, and more profit for the business.

Let’s take a look quickly at some case-studies on how performance has either impacted positively or negatively in conversion rates and revenue on products.

Case Studies

Where Performance Optimization has helped

Where Poor Performance has affected the products

Case studies sourced from WPO Stats.


Hopefully, you have a better take on web performance, why your team should consider it at every process of product design, and the benefits it holds for your businesses and product. You’ve also seen from the case studies where poor performance has led to loss of users and less revenue. Stay tuned for the next articles where I talk about the several factors affecting performance, including strategies and patterns to tackle these problems.

Further Reading and Resources…

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Thanks for reading!



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