Is your site fast enough?

SmugMug’s CEO Don MacAskill blogs on how speed gives SmugMug a competitive advantage. He covers off the usual suspects of wiring down HTML, CSS and JavaScript includes and the graphic elements of the site. He also notes that although you can track the time for a page to render from within your server room, once it hits the network, it becomes much harder to track. At the same time, this is precisely when it gets interesting since this is what your user actually experiences.

As a local search provider, we are also pretty focussed on keeping search times low, but that means very little if the rest of our pages take a long time to render.

There are four general types of tools that I’ve looked at to try to track the actual user experience once it escapes the server room:
– Keynote
– Network tools
– Firebug
– Alexa

Each type of measurement has a systemic flaw which stops us from using it as the ‘truth’. Having said that, they are the only truths out there, so we need to work with what we can. As Don says about Alexa “We don’t know exactly what they’re measuring, how much or often they’re measuring it, and how many people are actually measured. But we do know that Alexa’s Speed rating has directly correlated to feedback we get from our customers, and most importantly, our customer satisfaction. That’s good enough for me.”

More on each of the four in later posts.

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