On Visions for Performance, or: Performance Optimization Is a Process

Published on December 4, 2018 (↻ October 1, 2022), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

Particularly in the context of performance budgets, it’s smart to develop a performance vision: What goals does one wish to achieve for the performance of a site or app? Yet assuming performance visions to be meant to be achievable, some of the soundest approaches have their own particular problems, and in them we recognize that performance, or performance optimization, is indeed a process.

Let’s start with those sound approaches, borrowing from Safwan Samla at this year’s GDE Summit. These entail the following main ideas:

These main ideas are useful because it’s not possible to give specific criteria and visions that are applicable to every project, and so the ideas factor in that “it depends,” and that goals have to be related to the project in question. And still, there’s something problematic to be found with each approach:

Most promising, therefore, seems to be to focus on oneself and one’s project for optimization. That, as I suggested, would depend on what oneself knows, and whether and how oneself learns—because, a difficulty with my counter-argument, we would probably not stand still and one day know that we reached our limit and we couldn’t improve performance any further. Just stopping here and dismissing the concerns I outlined seems too simple, however, because there’s only one tiny amendment we’d need to make explicit to save the approach: to set a new goal once we reached whatever we aimed for on the basis of improving ourselves and our projects.

This may appear obvious—but it’s not: It cannot (or probably shouldn’t) be taken for granted that everyone knows what happens once a vision has been accomplished—it needs to be called out. It needs to be made clear that any performance goal that got reached is to be followed by a new performance goal.

That, then, leads us to the idea of this post: If our performance visions can only be iterations, then performance optimization itself is, just like web design, a process.

We’ve all known this all along—when would we ever be “done” optimizing for performance?—, but I’ve liked this one angle at performance optimization. Please poke holes into my reasoning.

Val tells of his life in the wild fens, his noble birth, and his desire to become a knight.

Figure: Performance visions. (Copyright King Features Syndicate, Inc., distr. Bulls.)

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!