You’re the Best Around: Performance & Scalability Standards
Goals for individual projects may vary, but your agency ought to have some standard practices for measuring the performance of the websites you deliver, and insuring they can scale to handle the traffic they'll receive.
Mason James, CEO, Valet
There is perhaps no greater threat to the open web than the lack of clear performance standards and accountability. Every agency bears the burden of developing best practices and holding themselves responsible for building high-performing web experiences.
Today's website owners expect a site to be performant, as they well should. This is not an impossible task. Setting a client up for success involves recording baseline metrics and measuring change as iterative development takes place. Create opportunities to review the bench why they're valuable. Create context for these metrics by looking at the history of the site as well as any competitors.
At Valet, we create context and performance standards by answering the most basic client question—am I better than I was yesterday? And am I better than my competition? Measuring and reporting based on standard best practices puts our best foot forward as developers and technologists, and allows us to be partners in our clients' success.
Clients who care about performance and scalability are by definition higher value, and making a commitment to meeting these concerns is a great way to set your agency apart from the crowd, leading to more prestige clients and justifying higher rates. Establish benchmarks and hold yourself to them in these areas:
Measure your page load speeds. There are a lot of great tools out there like yslow, sitespeed.io, Google’s PageSpeed, Pingdom’s Speed Test and more. On the backend, look for bottlenecks with New Relic, Blackfire or XHProf. Be sure to measure front-end performance in addition to that of teh CMS itself: the ultimate metric is how long users wait to get pages, not how fast Drupal or WordPress respond.
Choose which tools your team will use, build them into your regular process, and make the results transparent and accessible. Not only is looking at the same tool over time crucial for consistently measuring improvements, but using the same tools across many projects will improve your team's skill and at spotting problems and leveraging wins across clients. Performance optimization is a specific area of expertise, but performance literacy is something everyone on a team should share. Exposing performance metrics will go a long way towards making your sites faster simply by creating visibility.
When you have standards for performance, it's much easier to share with clients to demonstrate your value. Automate performance reports and include them as part of your code reviews, sprint milestones and other check-ins. Build a quick performance review and prospectus into your proposals. Sell this additional value to your clients by sharing how performance increases conversions, helps search engine rankings, and more.
As with performance testing, build an awareness of scalability into your projects from the beginning. Make sure your clients can survive success with load-testing tools like Apache Bench, JMeter or Blazemeter.
Much like with performance, having standard practices for how you assess a site's traffic requirements and carry out a test is important. This is how you build expertise and confidence in your ability to predict success. Work with your clients to establish load testing and concurrency goals and make testing the site towards these goals a part of your regular reviews and checkins. Your peace of mind will transfer directly to the client’s sense of well-being.
Elastic hosting is a key feature on Pantheon. It assures that sites have the resources they need, as they are needed—no need to make frantic phone calls during a traffic spike. However, for sites where we guarantee uptime (our Elite service level) we still carry out a rigorous load-testing practice prior to every launch, and that's led to an impeccable track-record of success.