Three performance tips: measurements and techniques to pay off for the long haul

Real User Monitoring” has probably convinced you by now that application performance is both important and inadequate; so what do you do about it? Accurate measurement and identification of a problem is the first step, of course. When you’re ready for the second step, here are three quite different approaches you can apply with proven records for delivering both quick results, and enough depth to reward you for months to come:

Low-hanging fruit: HTTP payload basics

I like the folks at Radware for bringing together two values in their public writings:

  • they base their comments on actual measurements; and
  • they offer practical, positive, and realistic advice.

Tammy Everts, for example, often teaches that images can be compressed, delivered in appropriate formats, and sensibly sized. That’s a great place to start any performance-optimization project.

Take advantage of what’s right in front of you: browser tools

Most front-end developers have a sense that browser debuggers are potent, and have improved a lot in recent years. They’re essentially indispensable for making the most of the functionality of HTML5, JSON, CSS3, and all the other technologies likely to appear in modern applications. Not so well-known is that nearly all of these debuggers provide rich performance introspection. With Chrome DevTools, for instance, a favorite of many colleagues, you’ll want to learn at least the Timeline, Audits, and heap profiling. Other browsers also go a long way in analysis of your code which leads to specific suggestions likely to improve performance of your application.

Network modelling

Last week I mentionedNetwork emulation for the cloud“. It’s worth a few more words now. Shrinking downloads and easing browsers’ chores are two traditional but distinct ways to improve the performance of Web applications. Separate from these in both means and ends is engineering modelling of network traffic. With increasingly sophisticated and complex networking between providers and end users, however, prudent network modelling has become essential. You can read for yourself why author Nick Hardiman expects that “[i]n a few years … IT testers will wonder how they managed without it.”

Conclusion

You don’t have to put up with mediocre performance. Whatever the current shape and substance of your applications, it’s almost certain that you can take at least a couple of steps today to improve it enough to please your users.

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