For much of 2014 I had been working on some research around Web Page Performance and understanding users expectations, what the industry believed about response times and how fast was 'fast enough', and how that compared to the real world. What I ended up finding is that much of the research that had been done in this field was, frankly, worthless. Oh, there were good points to be found, some useful results, and valuable nuggets to be unearthed - but on the whole most results drew conclusions that were being interpreted far to generally or their methodology was deeply flawed.
In short, there was a gaping hole that was asking to be filled. And the question was, how fast is 'fast enough'?
The most valuable conclusions I could glean from published works were as follows:
- Faster is better
- For systems that don't need to rely on real-time feedback, <1s is fast enough to be seamless for most request-response human-computer interactions be it locally or over the web
- People will happily wait longer if they are given responsive feedback while they are waiting
- Consistency is important
But from a practical perspective, what kind of performance level should I be aiming for? Is 5s fast enough? What about 3s? Is average response time sufficient, or do we need to use something stricter?
These kinds of questions led me to doing the research that eventually resulted in writing a paper that in September 2014 I submitted and was accepted by the International Conference on Performance Engineering (ICPE 2015).
That research paper is now officially available online at the MNP Library Defining Standards for Web Page Performance (also available via the ACM Digital Library with the following Citation Link).
In February of 2015 I then got to travel to Austin TX to present my paper at the conference. I will post my thoughts about the conference and the trip in an upcoming post, but in short it was a wonderful experience, I got to meet a lot of amazing people, the presentations were fantastic and I learned quite a bit.
Now, I am pursuing expanding our service offerings as part of MNP's Technology Consulting Team by officially introducing Performance Management.
Performance Management is all about improving the success rate of projects with a technology component. Performance is often a consideration that exists only as an afterthought on projects, something that can be taken care of after the important functional work has been completed. That very thinking has led to some spectacular failures in the real world notably including the 2014 Examsoft debacle, the 2013 launch of Healthcare.gov, the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival ticketing system failure, and the 2007 scrapping of the new UK General Register Office System.
Performance Management is about planning for success, it is about helping organizations invest in quality and avoid making the mistakes of the past. This is something that has become a bit of a passion of mine, a purpose, and I intend to spend a lot more time using this space to talk about performance in the future.