The Many Faces of Web Performance Tools
“Oh, web performance! So your company tests how much load my web server can handle, right?”
It is all too common that when I am talking with someone about web performance tools and we need to spend a few minutes just to understand each others vocabulary. The term “web performance” is commonly used for many types of products. Further complicating the situation is that these tools differ vastly in terms of what type of information they supply, the primary user, and how they help an organization improve overall web performance. If you don’t understand the different categories of performance tools and what business problems they address you can make the costly mistake of purchasing the wrong product and not addressing the root of the issue you are trying to fix.
I recently saw an example of this while speaking with a Vice President of Development for a large US communications company with hundreds of web properties. Web analytics revealed that users were abandoning their websites. Through follow up surveys with these users, the team discovered that the drop off was directly related to the performance of their web properties. The websites were slow and they were losing visible revenue opportunities. The Vice President was shocked. “But we have web performance tools! How can our web performance be bad?”
The reason they were simply trying to solve a business problem with the wrong type of tool. They had purchased a performance monitoring tool which measured the performance of their web properties from data centers around the world. Performance monitoring tools are certainly important because they help determine when a website is responding slower than a user-defined threshold. This is a good solution to the business problem of ensuring your application’s performance does not degrade once in production.
However, the communications company really needed a different business problem solved. They wanted to know why their web properties were slow but they didn’t fully understand what business problems a performance monitoring tool would address. To them, it was a “performance tool” so it should help them have a faster site. When it didn’t, they were frustrated, had spent tens of thousands of dollars on the problem, and still didn’t have a faster website.
To help provide some education on this topic, we at Zoompf created a whitepaper titled “A Guide to Modern Web Performance Tools.” In this whitepaper we examine the different categories performance tools to help you evaluate whether you are using the right products for your organization. We start by defining three categories of web performance products: load testing tools, performance monitoring tools, and web performance optimizations tools. We explain what they do, how they help an organization achieve overall web performance goals, and provide recommendations about how to deploy these tools to achieve maximum return on your performance investments.