Measuring Web Performance

by: Matt Shull, Frontend & Angular Thinkful Mentor

Clients care deeply about web performance and they depend on us to articulate and measure how well their website is performing. If you have a service level agreement (SLA) with your client, and you should, then learning how to measure key metrics is crucial to you and your business. There are great paid products on the market that can keep track of a website’s performance, but there are plenty of websites and JavaScript APIs that can help you measure these metrics free of charge.

Real User Monitoring (RUM)

Real user monitoring is collected using data from…well, real users! It helps in identifying how long it takes actual users to process the request, render the DOM, and more. There are very good paid products that can measure and provide online dashboards for viewing RUM data, such as New Relic’s Browser Monitoring and Soasta’s mPulse, but if you’re on a budget it can be hard to afford those services. Luckily there are tools built into most browsers that can help us!

Synthetic Testing

Testing in the wild with RUM data is essential but it has its limitations. We need a way to control the variables such as connection speed, geographic location, and the user’s browser. What’s more, in order to really get meaningful data we need to be able to see how the website is loading for the user via video or images. There are great paid products that allow us to have this laboratory type setting, such as New Relic’s Synthetics and Catchpoint’s Synthetic Testing & Monitoring, but let’s take a look at one free tool that meets these needs: WebPageTest.org.

The Need for Speed

I’ve noticed over the last couple of years that clients are always asking about performance, but they just don’t know exactly what questions to ask or how to measure performance. It’s black and white to them: either the website is fast or the website is slow. The companies and freelancers that stand out are those that have a performance SLA with standards and best practices and are transparent about the performance of their client’s sites. It’s never been easier to keep track of performance data using open source tools and dashboards like Nines Performance Tool. It allows you to see information via a small toolbar on a website or look at the data via a dashboard using Google charts. Whether you use a paid service or use an open source tool, just start testing today! Remember that #perfmatters!

Matt Shull

Matt is a self taught programmer who started in 2005. He’s worked on many projects over the years but is currently working on a non-profit start-up called 15:11 Project. He currently works with SASS, AngularJS, PHP, MySQL, and spends the majority of his time in the terminal. Husband to a very talented wife and father to a very destructive (but quite adorable) son, Matt likes to spend most of his time with family, catching up on the latest web development trends on Twitter, or nerding out on web performance.

Learn together not alone with Thinkful’s community blog by mentors and students. www.thinkful.com

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