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March 13th, 2017

Look beyond the Average – Web Performance Metrics Best Practices

Performance Metrics 101

Missing out on personal time. Neglecting to take a vacation. These are the consequences of Web performance issues, which tend to be time-consuming and can seem never-ending.

The solution: Understanding performance metrics and the vital role they play in the success and stability of your Performance Metrics 150x150 Look beyond the Average Web Performance Metrics Best Practices Website and, ultimately, your business. This can be the difference between frequent late-night troubleshooting sessions and sipping on an ice-cold beverage while on vacation at a warm tropical destination.

Performance metrics, which are often referred to as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), are value-based measurements that analyze and provide insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your online services. Areas of interest, such as page load time, object load time, time-to-first-byte, 3rd party API performance and overall throughput, among others, are all great examples of KPIs. These measurements are imperative to know and fully understand when launching or maintaining an online service. They will provide an accurate depiction of the experience that potential customers will have when visiting your site(s), not only under typical user traffic but also during times of high load, such as during a holiday, sale or promotion.

What Should I Look For?

It’s important to identify the right KPIs for your site. What do you need to discover about your site performance? Based on expected end results, what do you need to improve? Truly valuable KPIs let you interpret such data accurately and easily, minimizing your analysis of how various measures inter-relate. This, of course, might be a daunting task for people who don’t work in this industry, which is why experts like the Professional Services Engineers at Neustar are here to help day in and day out.

Interpreting KPI data involves knowing the front-end, back-end and any integrated technologies involved with your online services. For example, by understanding that a consistently high time-to-first-byte measurement often leads to a fully saturated database user pool, which in turn causes queued requests to resemble lines at an amusement park, you know to investigate the database configuration first. Additionally, if a page includes a mash-up that queries numerous 3rd party services for data, and that page is slow to fully load (or even fails before fully loading), it would be appropriate to briefly analyze the local structure of the page and then give significant attention to discovering which 3rd party API(s) may be decreasing your users’ satisfaction.

During KPI analysis, avoid catch-all measurements that provide little businesses value. This leads to the over-valuation and under-valuation of certain KPIs, either of which will dilute your overall performance analysis. For example, while it is important to know the page load time for specific pages of your site, this is not the most valuable KPI because it is not segmented and therefore does not address a specific outcome. Delving deeper into the granular measurements of those specific pages will allow you to see the individual components that are actually causing a slow page load time. Those objects and their necessary modifications will hold more value to you and provide a more beneficial outcome.

At the 2013 Velocity Conference, Neustar identified some of “The Usual Suspects” that hijack Website performance. They may be good starting points for discovering KPIs that hold value specific to your Website. These suspects are:

  • Third-Party Artie (integrated third-party technologies)
  • Miss Direction (asset and page redirections)
  • Biggie Assets (larger-than-optimal Website assets)
  • JavaScript Jane (poorly written JavaScript code, or too many sourced files)
  • Fatty Files (images, media and other files that take too long to load)
  • Monster Cookie (bloated client-side cookies) usual suspects velocity

web performance theft usual suspects

Extract Real Value

Again, extracting real value from performance measurements involves a deep understanding of your business objectives as well as the technical systems being measured. There is no “one size fits all” measurement or KPI that will give all businesses equal value, but there are some rules of thumb, for instance:

  • Start with simple, segmented KPIs that may also be converted to outcomes.
  • Use metrics that identify successes and/or failures where you currently spend most of your time.
  • Understand the granularity of metrics, such as what objects are involved in high page load times, not just the page load time itself.
  • Derive KPI value from your specific and individual business outcomes.
  • Remember: Averages maintain mediocrity. Attain excellence by striving for above-average results.

Benefits of Good Performance Metrics

In summary, Neustar recommends:

  • Looking beyond the average
  • Developing an outcome-oriented set of KPIs specific to your business requirements
  • Understanding the data presented during performance measurement and converting that data to real value

These best practices can help you mitigate potential losses in revenue, increase customer retention and boost conversion rates. They can also give you a deeper understanding of your online business, enabling you to make smarter business decisions and provide solid value-based data for shareholders.

It may be just what your business needs to exceed what it thought was possible. So go ahead – look beyond the average and equip your business for success.

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