Attending Velocity Web Performance and Operations Conference for the last 2 days has been extremely enlightening. To begin with expected attendance this year was 1200 and actual attendance is unofficially over 1800. The rooms are packed with people anxious improve their company's IT Operations and/or to improve their company's web performance through other means. One of those means is through code improvement. As a Product Manger in the web performance world I discovered that there's an entirely new level that performance measurements can be taken to in the dev world.
One of the sessions that was especially interesting was one where Paul Roy from Microsoft spoke about improving the performance of MSN, Microsoft's portal offering, in an effort to make it the fastest internet portal on the web. The details were all very interesting but one of the most interesting takeaways were the gaps that he defined in the area of web page performance measurements. The main gap was around "Rendering Area Measurements". One of the most important measurements was what they call "above the fold measurements". Above the fold means measuring from the time the user clicked until when the visible part of the requested page is seen by the end user. Another rendering measurement Roy values is what they call "First Paint". First paint is fairly descriptive but for clarity, it is the time from when a user clicks to when the next page first starts to show up. Roy suggests they still need to see the page load time but these render time measurements are also very useful because they too have a significant impact on perception and the user experience . Roy continued to explain how other gaps include: the ability to test across geographical locations, the ability to rationalize real user metrics with synthetic users, and the ability to do comparisons against competition.
It appears that there is still plenty of room for vendor innovation in the area of web performance measurements. It will be interesting to see if these new measurements are delivered in the HTTP specification, in one of Steve Souders new performance projects or delivered by a vendor. The big question becomes how many organization will actually go to this extent to understand the experience of the user and how much impact this level of analysis has on the business. It will also be interesting to see how many Quest customers would realized value from such detailed measurements. So the study begins.......