If you know me, or if you’ve ever attended one of my talks or read any of my articles or blog posts (oh, so many blog posts!), then you know I’m fascinated by the impact of web performance on human behavior. (For the purposes of this book, let’s use this simple definition of web performance: the speed and availability of web pages.) Because of the space in which I work, most of this human behavior gets correlated to business metrics. For the past six years, I’ve been corralling and writing about every case study I can get my hands on that documents this correlation.
In hindsight, it was probably inevitable that I should finally sit down and pull all these stories under one roof. I’m excited to bring these stories to you and hopefully make you a performance convert, if you aren’t one already.
Maybe you don’t care about performance (yet). But chances are, no matter what kind of site you run—from retail to media to SaaS—you care about one or more of these metrics:
Time on site
Organic search traffic
Are you targeting at least one of these metrics? Then you should also care about performance.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that, if you can name a business metric, then you can map it to web performance in some quantifiable way. I have yet to find a metric that defied mapping. In fact, for me—and I know I’m not alone in this—the relationship between performance and online success has become so obvious that it comes as a bit of a surprise to encounter resistance to the idea. But there is definitely resistance out there—or, if not outright resistance, then at the very least a serious lack of education. Hence this book.
One of the topics that comes up a lot in the web performance space is the challenge of convincing other people in your organization to care enough about performance that they’re willing to invest some resources into fixing it. It’s tough fighting for resources to fix a problem that, until recently, has been largely a silent killer. One of my goals in writing this book is to give all the performance converts out there the ammunition they need to put together a strong business case.
If you’ve been in this space for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with some of the research and case studies—from Walmart to Aberdeen—that are mainstays of pretty much every speaker deck you encounter. These stories are great, and you’ll find them covered here for the benefit of performance newcomers. But I’ve also cast my net wide to include stories that will, hopefully, be new to you.
Many of the case studies in this book focus on retail. That’s because, particularly in the early years of studying web performance, those were the success stories that were easier to measure and tell. But in recent years we’ve seen performance stories from a variety of different verticals, including media, travel, SaaS, and even political sites. As our tools and metrics have evolved, so has our ability to gauge the impact of performance changes on people and businesses. I’ve spread my search to include as many of these diverse stories as I could track down (some of which were added hours before this book went into production!).
When you finish this book, I’d love it if you walked away having internalized the fact that performance is very much a human issue.
We are incredibly lucky that we have the tools to measure and analyze how people use our sites and apps, but we shouldn’t fall into the trap of reducing people to mere numbers on a dashboard. There are real people—millions upon millions of them—behind every study and statistic referenced in the pages ahead.
Ultimately, if we care about our businesses, then all those real actual human beings should be the first and last thing we think about every day.