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Measuring your "performance plateau", optimizing third parties & competitive benchmarks for top news sites

Mar 1, 2023


Hi there,

Writing this email is one of the highlights of my job. I've been working in the UX and performance industry for more than twenty years, and compiling this newsletter is my monthly reminder that there's always more to learn. In this edition, there's some great stuff for you that spans a huge range of performance topics, including:

  • The latest competitive benchmarks for leading news sites
  • How to foster your organization's performance culture
  • Understanding the "performance plateau" and why it matters
  • Reducing the impact of third-party tags on your pages
  • Inspiring case studies
  • Where you'll find SpeedCurve in 2023

I hope you enjoy it. Until next month, stay well. :)

m: @tammy
t: @tameverts


Competitive benchmarks: How fast are news sites?

For media sites, poor site speed is usually a "death by a thousand cuts" scenario. There's rarely a single main issue. It's typically a myriad of issues – bloated pages, hundreds of requests, egregious blocking scripts, and unoptimized images. Visiting your site on a newer device over a fast connection can hide issues. Mobile devices and slow connections expose those issues.

A recent snapshot of the Page Speed Benchmarks for EU and UK media sites – tested over a slow mobile connection – shows Start Render times as slow as 20 seconds.

US media sites fared even worse, with the slowest Start Render time clocking in at 40 seconds.

Page Speed Benchmarks is a public-facing, interactive set of dashboards. We test and rank industry-leading websites based on how fast their pages appear to load, from a user’s perspective. It's a handy tool for benchmarking your own site, as well as digging down to see how the fastest and slowest pages in the dashboards are built.

How Sunday Citizen improved conversions by focusing on performance

Mateusz Krzeszowiak • Shopify

Mateusz shares how his team worked with web retailer Sunday Citizen to improve performance metrics, particularly Core Web Vitals, which ultimately resulted in impressive business gains. Their achievements included:

  • 25% improvement in Largest Contentful Paint
  • 61% improvement in Cumulative Layout Shift
  • 4% decrease in bounce rate
  • 6% increase in conversion

Understanding the "performance plateau"

Tammy Everts • SpeedCurve

"I made my pages faster, but my business and user engagement metrics didn't change. WHY???"
"How do I know how fast my pages should be?"
"How can I demonstrate the business value of performance to people in my organization?"

If you've ever asked yourself these questions, then you could find the answers in understanding the performance plateau for your site. The performance plateau is the point at which changes to your website’s rendering metrics (such as Start Render and Largest Contentful Paint) cease to matter because you’ve bottomed out in terms of business and user engagement metrics. In other words, if your performance metrics are on the performance plateau, making them a couple of seconds faster probably won't help your business.

In this post, I show how to use your own data to find the plateau for your site, and then what to do with your new insights.

Performance culture through a looking glass

Dora Militaru • Fastly

In her most excellent talk at in Amsterdam last October, Dora asked "Is performance a particularly tricky discipline – or is it a cultivated frame of mind?" She discussed the fact that, even today, highly skilled engineering teams are yet to be immune against seasonal web performance regressions. Some of the topics she covered:

  • Speed ≈ money
  • Fostering (and scaling) a strong performance culture
  • Embracing apoptosis

Check out the full video of Dora's talk and walk away with some tools to wrangle that tricky beast: sustainable performance optimization.

Reducing the impact of third-party tags

Andy Davies • SpeedCurve

Another great talk, this time from our very own Andy Davies. Most of us rely on third-party tags for critical aspects of our sites – from analytics and ads to reviews and recommendations. But there’s a tension between the value that third-party tags bring and the costs they impose. Check out the full video of Andy's talk and pick up the approaches and practical steps he uses to help clients reduce the impact that tags have on the speed of their visitors' experience.

A countdown of my top five favorite web performance tools

Sia Karamalegos • Shopify

I don't love this post just because SpeedCurve is on the list. I love it because Sia demonstrates that there's no one-size-fits-all performance tool, and there's no single tool that does everything (though we're doing our best!).

Chances are, you're using more than one tool to monitor and optimize performance in your organization, and not only is that okay – it's strongly recommended. The important thing is to know what you need out of your tools, and how to use them in complementary ways, so you can squeeze all the value you can from them.

Find us at SmashingConf and PerfNow!

We're so excited to once again be sponsors for SmashingConf and in 2023. If you're planning to attend any of these events, let us know. We'd love to catch up!

Questions? Feedback? Let me know!

As always, I welcome your questions and feedback. Let me know your thoughts by replying to this email or sending a note to