Performance First Aid: Basics

If your web application suffers from severe slowdowns, these 5 steps will help you to understand the areas of improvement that can have a drastically effect. This is especially true with older applications that didn’t get “web performance” built in by design.

  • Define what you’re actually talking about. There are plenty versions of “slow” available (loading? rendering? usage? whatever?). Point at the slow spots. Find some parameters that describe your problem and measure them. The SSQ Blog has a good introduction on performance testing.
  • Understand what influences your environment. Web applications that run into “performance problems” usually live in a complex environment. Get an overview about the problems that are inherent to the architecture. Understand how the environment of “HTTP” works. Yahoo and Google have excellent ressources available and also offer some tools for first aid diagnosis. Especially try to understand how caching works in the web. “Expires” is a mighty ally.
  • Shrink your file sizes with compression, compression and even more compression!
  • Reduce the amount of HTTP requests with image sprites and try to reduce the amount of JS and CSS files by combining them.
  • If your frontend isn’t a problem anymore, look at the backend.