Diagnosing Site Speed Issues Requires a Surgical Approach

A Drupal Drop cutting a chain that's tethering someone's ankle to an iron ball.

You’ve likely been told to never Google your symptoms. After all, it inevitably seems that Internet rabbit hole of medical information always leads to some debilitating, fatal disease. Getting the right diagnosis requires time, investigation, and exploration beyond the obvious symptoms.

It’s no different for websites -- especially as it relates to site speed. When we see warnings about slow load times, many will assume the application needs to run faster. So we’ll do things like optimize caching or increase server resources. But that’s treating the symptom, not the disease. Sometimes you don’t need to do the digital equivalent of open-heart surgery to fix the problem. Instead, you need to get the right diagnosis.

In my upcoming presentation at Drupal North, titled “Making Drupal Fast -- A Surgical Approach” I talk about how putting your focus where it’s most needed will lead to a much faster site and, ultimately, happier visitors and users. After all, we know that a slow site has negative impacts on search engine optimization, can increase bounce rate, and lower site conversions. But taking a surgical approach and understanding the cause of the problems can help you effectively ‘treat’ the site and alleviate the symptoms.

In this presentation -- and over my next few blogs -- I’ll get into the details on each of the four parts, which consists of

  1. Test
  2. Diagnose
  3. Operate
  4. Monitor

But first, I’m going to mix my metaphors here and pivot from the medical sciences to the culinary arts.

The best meals and the best chefs understand that simplicity is key. Amateur cooks often try to overwhelm a plate thinking that more is better. Superfluous garnishes, trendy reductions, and an inordinate number of ingredients are often incorporated to make a meal “look” better. But they can often work at counter-purposes, create confusion on the palate, or mask the true flavours of the meal.

In reality, the best meals use minimal elements and focus on quality products and expert technique to ensure that the true nature of the food is the star. It cannot be overstated how much of a value that simplicity brings to the process, as opposed to taking a “kitchen sink” approach of throwing in every ingredient (or, in a digital perspective, widget or module) known to man, just to keep up with trends and make something look flashy.

Over the next month or so, I’ll be sharing a few more blogs in this series, but if you want to get the information before the rest of the crowd, be sure to join me in Montreal at DrupalNorth. Registration is still open and my presentation takes place on the morning of Thursday, June 13th.

I hope to see you there!

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