If You Aren’t First You’re Last

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In this talk I will be covering various strategies and techniques that you can employ to make your apps fast and keep your apps fast. From tips and tricks around measuring performance, to architectural strategy and dirty rotten tricks.

Ken Wheeler
Ken Wheeler
27 min
13 Nov, 2023

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Video Summary and Transcription

Performance is a puzzle that requires different approaches for different problems and sites. User feedback is crucial in evaluating performance, rather than relying solely on metrics like Lighthouse scores. Measuring performance and identifying issues can be done through tools like the performance tab and user timings. Understanding the main thread and using tools like React Profiler and Chrome Tracing can provide insights into performance problems. Optimizing performance involves doing less work, avoiding main thread blocking, and considering options like virtualization and Canvas. Communicating the impact of optimization to leadership and exploring different uses of Canvas are also important topics discussed in the Talk.

Available in Español

1. Introduction to Performance Talk

Short description:

I'm here to give a talk about performance. Performance is not prescriptive at all. It's a puzzle, and I'll give you the tools to crack it. Different problems and sites require different approaches, from generic landing pages to complex applications like Photoshop in the browser.

I'm here to give a talk about performance. They asked me what, and because three-quarters of the things that I say come from like stepbrothers or Ricky Bobby, I was like, if you're not first, you're last. But then I thought about it, and it kind of works. If you've seen the movie, when Ricky Bobby's dad dips, the last thing that he tells him is, if you're not first, you're last, and he bases his entire life around it, and everything he does is based upon that shit, that firm belief in that, until later, when his dad comes back and says, what are you talking about? I was high when I said that. But that's a lot like web development in general now, where somebody will say something and Everybody gets on Twitter and parrots it and it's actually like 50% applicable, but largely bullshit.

I guess the point I'm making is, I'm going to talk about performance today, and performance is not prescriptive at all. Of course there's some things that you can do, some standards put in place, but largely it's a puzzle. It's research, figuring out what the problem is, and then coming up with a fix to that so I can't tell you there's any given thing. I'm just going to give you the tools that you can use to crack that puzzle yourself, and this is what I do almost every day, and it's fun as shit, so hopefully after this you give it a shot.

There's different problems, there's different sites, they do different things. In reality, what you have is you kind of have a sliding scale, from your generic AI thread boy landing pages, to shit like Photoshop in the browser. So when you're just making a landing page site, sure, a lot of these standard recommendations are applicable. But when you're making fucking Photoshop in the browser, obviously you're going to run into a couple different problems, because you're actually doing things, and you actually have users.

2. App Performance and User Feedback

Short description:

When it comes to app performance, there's a sliding scale from generic landing pages to complex applications like Photoshop in the browser. While standard recommendations apply to landing page sites, more complex apps require different approaches. Lighthouse scores may not always reflect success, as companies like Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Target prove. Instead, it's crucial to prioritize user feedback and address their actual pain points.

In reality, what you have is you kind of have a sliding scale, from your generic landing pages, to things like Photoshop in the browser. When you're just making a landing page site, a lot of the standard recommendations are applicable. But when you're making something like Photoshop in the browser, you're going to run into different problems because you're actually doing things and you have users.

So what makes an app performant? If you ask a lot of people or Google, they're going to tell you about Core Web Vitals, loading, interactivity, visual stability. Everyone wants their Lighthouse score. But when you actually look at the Lighthouse scores for Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Target, they didn't get their Google Good Boy score. Yet, they make millions, billions of dollars every month. What matters is what your users think and what they're doing.

If you work on a thing, go to Twitter, search that thing, and then search 'sucks'. You'll see how users feel about it. Nobody's complaining about cumulative layout shift. They care about the actual experience. So it's important to focus on what matters to your users.

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