Performance Tuning Resources For Web Clients

Posted in: Software Development Best Practices

Recently I have been doing some research on tweaking websites to make them faster (either in reality, or at least in appearance to the client). Specifically the research has been focused on the actual client tier interaction – requesting the page, downloading the assets and rendering the page in the browser. In this post I will document some of the better resources I have found, focusing on client-side tweaks, so these resources should be relevant no matter if you are a Java, PHP, .Net or any other flavor of developer.
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What is a browser?

Posted in: Uncategorized

It seems like an easy question. A web browser has become so integral to today’s computing experience that it would be hard to imagine what a computer without one would be useful for.

But take a look at this video that Google has posted on YouTube.

So if we ignore that this video is produced by Google and so the results are obviously predisposed to further their own agenda, then I think there are still a few interesting things that come to mind when watching this.

Firstly, I think software developers can sometimes get a little myopic about who their customers are, and I definitely make that mistake myself sometimes. Much of my day revolves around my laptop and my web browser, but for a lot of people, perhaps most people, this is not the case. So we should be careful about making too many assumptions about what our users will or will not understand and how they will or will not use our software.

Secondly, I think that this kind of proves out that the whole debate about whether Microsoft ships Windows with IE embedded in the OS or not is kind of moot. As it turns out, there is a pretty large number of people that can’t identify what IE even is, let alone whether it is IE or Firefox.

Thirdly, the number of people who thought Google was the browser says a lot about what the web experience of most people is. They launch a piece of software (not called a “browser” apparently), they either go to google.com, or it is already their home page, they search (or browse if you will) for what they are looking for, click one of the links on the first page that shows up, and that is the Internet as far as they are concerned.

Fourthly, following on from the previous point, this only serves to reinforce the importance of SEO activities and making sure your site shows up high on that very first page of results on Google.

Fifthly (is that a word?), this might be reading too much into it, but maybe these people are the embodiment of the trend of the browser just simply becoming more and more ubiquitous when using a computer. The delineation between the OS and the browser is fading rapidly. The move towards SAAS style applications, web applications as apposed to just web sites and just generally more and more computing work being moved to the network and less and less being done locally anymore will see this trend continue.

Get Your Firefox Add-Ons Under Control

Posted in: Software Development Best Practices

Firefox add-ons can be hard to manage – for me, mostly in terms of finding quality add-ons that do something you find useful.

There is a new feature available called Add-on Collections. The name is helpfully descriptive – basically people can now group related add-ons together, give that group (or “collection” if you will) a name and list it on the site. So if you are on every social network, there is a collection of all of the add-ons that allow you to stay connected with those networks from the browser. If you like to travel, there is a collection that pulls together all of the add-ons that will help you do your thing. You get the idea.

Read more about Firefox Add-on Collections here.

So, if you consider yourself a web developer of any kind, please take my recommendation and install the Web Developer’s Toolkit collection right now, today, without delay. Hopefully you are already using Firebug, but there are a bunch of other add-ons in this collection that you might not be using already and you really should be.

And if I can provide one more piece of advice today – learn to use the tools you have available to you. Every day I see software developers doing things the hard way, particularly when it comes to debugging issues. There is a cornucopia of tools out there to help you do your job and if you know how to use them and you know what issues they will help you solve, you will instantly become a better developer – more efficient, more productive, more reliable, more dependable – perhaps, dare I say it, a craftsman.

Imagine an Electrician who carried around a whole toolbox of tools, but only knows how to use a screwdriver and a hammer – he can probably complete most tasks with those two tools, but he is probably going to disappoint his customers and not make much money as a contractor.

So, in summary, get some decent add-ons for Firefox to help you be a better Web Developer, and then actually take the time to learn how to use them. Easy.