Performance as competitive advantage

Sometimes it’s hard to quantify the benefits of performance improvements. Many tools try to show you data and many rule-based tests and best practices exist to describe the goals, but there is still no clear connection in business people’s heads between particular site’s performance and savings or profits that performance optimization projects will bring.

As part of ShowSlow project I’m working on making it easier to get the technical answers, but my experience with real world web development projects and Web Performance Meetups movement is showing that business answer is often more important then technology answer here as ultimate requirements of performance are not technical (like in scalability, for example), but psychological.

But I’d like to look at this business problem from a new perspective that is different from traditional tweaking / improvements / benefit approach. I think that speed of interaction is such an essential product quality that by breaking traditional web performance barriers companies can create fundamentally new products and make completely new things possible in the cloud-based web application space.

Of course I’m talking about today’s Google Instant announcement. New user experience they introduced completely breaks traditional search paradigm similar to how AdWords broke advertising paradigm. More over, achieving this technical goal and building the system of this complexity is extremely hard, but this is exactly what makes it easier for them to keep competition at bay.

Google is not the first company to bake web performance into a new product. Facebook before them created new experience with their activity feed pages using various innovative technologies like BigPipe and HipHop, for example. Incredible statistics that brought them to the leading positions on the charts of the web heavily depend on ability to deliver next level of quality for their social product. Both Facebook and Google, invested in many backend and front end technologies that improve web performance and that allows them to keep unprecedented levels of user engagement.

It is great to see that competition between the two giants is moving web performance to the next level!

Again, competitive advantage cab be built by close attention to web application performance as well as new kind of products that would be impossible to develop with common latency levels and speed of interaction. To get to next levels of usability and to provide new experiences, companies must embrace web performance as a critical element in their product development.

What do you think? How can other big companies on the web change their products using high performance and get ahead of competition? Can you do that at your company?

2 thoughts on “Performance as competitive advantage”

  1. In case of Google, it allowed them to create new product (Google Instant) which is significantly different from other products and is not possible to create without very heavy work on performance (both front end as well as back-end infrastructure and even scalability).

    In case of Facebook, it allowed them to squeeze all the distraction away from users and help users keep them engaged like no other network (or website for that matter).

    Neither of those is possible without unprecedented attention to performance.

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