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Wallace Deer Management Association web site performance

During work on the WDMA website there were points when web pages and features were just slow. It could take a long time to update a page with a lot of dynamic content. I am to blame for a lot of this. When implementing a new feature my main focus was making sure it was what we wanted. I tried to quickly code the feature to get feedback. Sometimes it takes a couple of times back and forth to get it. Once done and working right we often found the feature was too slow. We had the desired behavior so I went to work on coding it more efficiently. That solved the performance problems. This became a cycle during the fall. Choose a feature…code the behavior correctly…tune it.

I started to notice that some pages should have loaded faster but they didn’t. The static content wasn’t very responsive and there was no database calls to blame.

A few quick searches turned up a lot of help for tuning the websites. My problem was that I’d gotten into the routine of fixing the problems in the code. There was still a lot of coding left to do and I didn’t want to get too distracted with what I was seeing of website performance tuning.

  • Firebug is an essential tool for developing or designing websites. Firebug is always open for debugging. I spend as much time in Firebug as in Vim writing code. It can show you what is really happening in the webpage! I just noticed two plugins for Firebug geared towards solving the performance problems. The plugins apply a standard set of rules to the webpage and provides scores in different categories that affect performance.
  • Google’s Page Speed gives the web page an overall X out of 100 score. Page Speed creates a helpful list of areas and shows which ones need help. I think the first score for WDMA was like 30/100. I went down the list. For every problem area there were links for help. When done WDMA scored 86/100. Not too bad I suppose.
  • Yahoo’s YSlow is like Page Speed. I like the way they score. YSlow grades a web page from A to F. Just like school. There is a drop down to select different Rulesets for scoring. Small Site or Blog is best for the WDMA site. The score went from a ‘D’ to an ‘A’ after a few days of tuning.

There is some overlap between Page Speed and YSlow. I found it helpful to use them both.

Posted in web development.

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