Benchmarking the Front End: Expanding What Performance Means and How to Track it

Emily Nakashima (Honeycomb), Rachel Myers (Google)
Web Performance, Mission City Ballroom B1
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It’s easy to quantify page load time in traditional web apps — there are great services for collecting, aggregating, graphing, slicing and dicing page-load-time-based metrics. But as web interactions increasingly load content asynchronously and more application functionality moves to the client, quantitatively understanding your users’ experiences becomes more difficult.

Tracking relevant performance metrics requires improvements in our apps and improvements in our tools. Time-to-window-load is no longer relevant. To benchmark our performance progress we needed to collect new events that correspond to when customers can use different components of the page. In practical terms, the new benchmark is when you remove the loading spinner. And on a complex page, we’re doing this strategically, page by page, feature by feature, spinner by spinner.

We want RUM, real user monitoring to understand our actual users’ experience over the networks they’re actually using. We’ll talk about the custom aggregator that we use to slice up some of this data, but we’ll also talk about how you can adapt familiar tools to get some of this data right now. We’ll end with a short discussion of where we hope they’ll go next.

Photo of Emily Nakashima

Emily Nakashima


Emily Nakashima is a UI Engineer and Team Lead at ModCloth. She spends her spare time trying to stuff design skills into developers, and developer skills into other, non-developer people. She’s a primary contributor to the RailsBridge Front End Curriculum and a RailsBridge volunteer. Follow her at @eanakashima!

Photo of Rachel Myers

Rachel Myers


Rachel Myers is a Ruby Engineer at ModCloth and an active member of the Ruby on Rails community. She’s passionate about helping others learn to code, and is a teacher and organizer for RailsBridge, a San Francisco-based organization that leads programming workshops for women and minorities. In her spare time, she loves making weird furniture, drinking Scotch, and playing with Legos. Follow her at @rachelmyers.


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