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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Why Performance Matters

In trade magazines and newsletters, articles featuring the “Top Ten Rules” are a staple feature. So anyone with even a passing interest in Web site design has probably seen a few checklists devoted to site usability. In essence, these lists present ways to keep visitors on your site --rather than driving them away in frustration. These guidelines are important for every Web site, but become absolutely vital when doing business online. Over the past ten years I’ve read many such articles -- and I have been delighted to see that they almost always list the importance of site responsiveness.

Why is this so pleasing? Well, having devoted most of my career to software performance engineering, I have always regarded performance as a fundamental cornerstone of software quality. But in the past, such concerns were often viewed as an arcane technical backwater. So it is gratifying to see that performance is now widely acknowledged as vital to Web site usability and customer satisfaction.

Software performance is a very large subject; I know, because I once spent two years writing a book (High-Performance Client/Server) about it. The book mainly describes timeless principles of performance engineering and how to approach distributed computing with performance in mind, but (since I wrote it during 1996 and 1997) the examples are a bit dated now. Its focus really needs updating to address the Web environment, but I don't think I'm going to find the time to do it.

Publishing a blog seems to be a better plan. I aim to contribute an organizing framework and a regular supply of ideas. And I also hope to keep things interesting by attracting comments and contributions from others. As Web users, we all know that site performance does matter, so I will try to make this an interesting place to discuss Performance Matters.


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