Third-phase Development

by Zach

Have you noticed that websites feel slower recently? No, it's not just you – some people have studied this and find that despite broadband speeds increasing, most big sites are actually getting slower.

The median load time is 7.72 seconds, a slowdown of 13.7% since Spring 2012.

The Telegraph's technology chap – Matt Warmann – suggests that this slowness fits into general phases of competitive web development. Basically, early sites were there just to exist: get a website up, and you have an advantage over folk without one. Then, sites grow as you add more and more features to out-do your competitors. Then...

Well, we're stuck with most sites in this bloaty phase, in which we shoehorn in more stuff so our site does all the buzzwordy things the competitors' don't. It's a race – and sites get bigger, heavier, and slower. As Warmann says:

"There’s never an obvious moment to invest in speeding up your website."

Warmann's conclusion is that new, modern sites are clean and a complete rebuild of your site could be a new competition stage. It's related to a PR exercise: invest in cleaning up code, and be seen as faster and more up-to-date.

This is excellent advice, but it might also miss a trick. Sure, cleaner and faster code will usually be a better option than maintaining giant sites which put people off as they slow down. Tidy away.

But, what if we step outside the race metaphor?

Instead of seeing this as a good opportunity to out-speed your competitors, wouldn't it be more prudent to focus on creating a site that supports the things your business actually does? The last decade of innovation has meant any-sized companies can use tools for most business functions that only huge businesses could previously access. But it has also introduced loads of "functionality" – which is often bolted-on later, and performs like the bodge job it is.

So, ask yourself: Does my website do what my business does?

It might lead to very similar conclusions as Warmann did – clean up your code, avoid clutter, load faster – but for very different reasons. Instead of a benchmark against your competitors, this is the perfect chance to remap your website to your business.