Let's take a look at how to assess and improve your web application's performance.
Speed is one of the most important parts of the user experience and a key factor in search rankings.
How to Identify Performance Issues
Most software defects are easy to spot with tests or in application logs, but performance issues tend to arise over time and may be more difficult to fix or diagnose. These issues are often missed by functional tests and don’t appear until an application experiences a significant load, and by that point, it’s often too late to prevent adverse user experiences.
Load testing is one of the best ways to detect performance issues before they reach production. By simulating load on an application, you can see how it responds to different traffic conditions and identify any performance bottlenecks outside of a production environment. The challenge is incorporating load tests into an Agile development process.
Since load tests are time-consuming to create and maintain, many development teams run them on an infrequent basis or only between major versions. The problem is that letting performance issues fester for longer periods of time makes them harder to fix and more likely to impact production users — two costly outcomes for businesses.
LoadNinja Record and Replay Interface for Load Testing - Source: LoadNinja
LoadNinja makes it easy to create and run load tests in minutes by recording and playing back tests without the need for complex scripts. Unlike JMeter and other load testing platforms, LoadNinja crates realistic loads using tens of thousands of browsers for data that accurately represents your end users rather than emulators.
In addition to simplifying the process for test engineers, LoadNinja makes it easy for developers to drill down into specific virtual user sessions to troubleshoot the problem in the browser’s DOM. These capabilities can significantly cut down on the time it takes to fix performance bottlenecks after they have been discovered.
Sign up for a free LoadNinja trial to see how easy it is to get started with load testing today!
#1: Implement a Caching Strategy
You're probably familiar with the idea of caching from an end user perspective. Your browser caches images, styles and other web elements to speed up the browsing experience. Rather than downloading these assets each time, your browser pulls up copies of the assets stored on your computer in a faction of the time — it's a win-win for everyone.
Server-side caching takes these concepts a step further by storing dynamically-generated content as a static file on a server. For instance, you might make a search query on an ecommerce website that runs a complex database query. The server might cache the search results page and show that cached static file without running a second expensive database query.
Content delivery networks, or CDNs, are another example of a caching strategy. CDNs store a cached version of a website across multiple geographic locations in order to minimize the distance between a visitor and the web server. The goal is to reduce page load times for users across different countries around the world by maintaining a cache.
#2: Optimize API & Database Requests
Database queries are one of the most common performance bottlenecks. For instance, suppose that you query a database for articles and want to see the comments on each article. You might query the database for a list of articles and then run a query to get the comments for each of the articles — but that's an anti pattern known as an N+1 query!
It's better to write two queries:
SELECT * FROM articles LIMIT 5
SELECT * FROM comments WHERE comments.article_id IN (1,2,3,4,5)
Some other ways to improve database performance include:
- Index JOIN, WHERE, ORDER BY and GROUP BY predicates.
- Avoid using wildcards at the beginning of predicates.
- Limit the columns that you use in SELECT clauses.
- Use INNER JOIN instead of OUTER JOIN where possible.
It's equally important to optimize API requests. Since you don't control third-party services, it's important to ensure that they don't become a bottleneck for your application.
Some tips to keep in mind when using APIs include:
- Think through all of the use cases
- Request as little as possible from the API
- Use asynchronous calls to let everything load
- Gracefully handle any failures
#3: Minify & Optimize Your Resources
Developers (should) use proper spacing, write ample comments and create intelligently-named variables to make their code easy to understand for themselves and others. While these attributes are great for development, there's no need for production servers or browsers to parse through verbose code — it only slows down the performance.
Image optimization applies these same principles to images rather than code. While all image files are already compressed, high-resolution images may use lossy compression to remove some header information or eliminate some image attributes. It's also a good idea to use vector images to ensure the best resolution and smallest file size.
The Bottom Line
Speed is one of the most important parts of the user experience and a key factor in search rankings. By keeping these three strategies in mind, you can cut down on your load times, improve the user experience and even improve your organic search rankings on search engines like Google.
LoadNinja makes it easy to identify performance bottlenecks and assess whether these strategies are working in production. By incorporating load testing into your Agile workflow, you can ensure that no performance issues hit production, where they can hurt conversions and customer satisfaction.
Sign up for a free LoadNinja trial to see how easy it is to incorporate load testing into your Agile workflow and ensure that performance problems don’t reach production.