Improve Web Performance by Looking Outside Your Walls

July 24, 2015 Corey Hamilton

I recently participated in a webinar where we discussed improving the performance of websites and applications using techniques that may fall outside the typical approach a developer would take to improve their company’s web performance. I was fortunate enough to be joined by Dyn customer Matt Landolf, the Manager of Hosting Operations at About.com.

For anybody who missed it, our discussion focused on these key areas:

  • Challenging long standing beliefs
  • How the Internet itself impacts your ability to provide a strong user experience
  • Looking outside your network and applications for quick performance wins
  • Reachability: Availability isn’t enough

Challenge Long Standing Beliefs

I’ve spoken to many Dyn customers and prospects recently that have conceded they’ve fallen into the trap of making decisions based on out-of-date information. Often this involves referencing old data in terms of where customers are located, which devices customers use, and which technology solutions are best suited to meet the needs of these customers.

During this discussion, Matt shared his experience at About.com where they assumed a much larger portion of their website traffic was local to the United States when, in fact, the percentage of traffic coming from international regions had been increasing for several years. Along these same lines, many companies rely on technology decisions made years earlier to meet today’s needs. However, the technology landscape has changed dramatically over recent years and the criteria used in the past to determine the “best solution” may no longer be suitable.  

Before you can ensure all end users receive an excellent experience with your websites and applications you must first ensure your knowledge of those users and the technology you’re using to serve them is accurate and up-to-date.

Internet Performance Impacts Web Performance

Of course, every visitor to your website arrives via the Internet. However, many people have adopted this notion that the Internet is a black box, often depicted by a cloud, where you have to take what you can get.  When conditions are good, your customers can expect a good experience with your website. Similarly, when conditions are bad, your customers shouldn’t expect much from your website.  After all, it’s the Internet’s fault.

There are two major problems with this mindset:

  1. End users don’t care whose “fault” it is
    The truth is that most end users don’t care why a website or application is unavailable or performing poorly. In today’s instant gratification society, people will find a website that meets their needs - even if that means visiting a competitor that’s reachable when you’re not. If you haven’t yet begun leveraging the Internet to gain a competitive advantage, then you’re at risk of losing customers when your competition provides a more consistent and reliable experience.

  2. Your customers’ path across the Internet can be affected
    Every step through the Internet on the way to your web properties is owned and managed by some organization, often leveraging relationships created with other organizations. Understanding this structure and where problems might arise enables you to ensure your customers can always reach your websites and applications in a safe and efficient manner.

Quick Wins Outside Your Network

 While your organization has likely mastered the tools to ensure your applications and network respond effectively to all users, looking outside your organization can often yield huge results.  In today’s webinar, Matt discussed the near-instant performance improvements about.com realized when they turned to Dyn’s Managed DNS to provide faster, more consistent performance to all of their users throughout the world.

The typical website requires dozens of DNS requests in order to load the first web page visitors hit. Each of these requests is both an opportunity to improve long-term performance on your website as well as a risk of providing a poor experience throughout their session. Properly Geolocating an end user ties them to the end point that can provide an optimal experience throughout their time on the site.  However, if they’re directed to a suboptimal endpoint, each interaction they perform during that session will be communicating with that suboptimal location.

Reachability, Not Just Availability

Again, it’s the difference between looking within your walls and looking beyond your walls.  Your customers care about one thing: Are your web properties providing the experience they need? Even when all your applications are up and running smoothly, if a portion of your customer base can’t reach you, then they’re going to take their business someplace else.

The AWS “outage” from June 30, 2015 illustrated exactly this. All of the AWS status pages indicated they were fully available, yet a large portion of the United States was unable to reach some of their services. The reality was that while they were “available”, they weren’t fully “reachable”.

Take a look at your web properties from your customers’ shoes to ensure they’re always able to reach you, so that you don’t open the door for your competition to serve them better.

So, there you have it. A few tips to improving your web performance by looking at things a bit more from the end user point of view and challenging some long standing beliefs. Again, I’d like to thank Matt Landolf from About.com for sharing his insights and experiences with us!

 

About the Author

Corey Hamilton

Corey Hamilton is a Product Marketing Manager for Dyn, a cloud-based Internet Performance company that helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Follow Corey on Twitter: @CoreyHamilton11 and @Dyn.

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