This week, Al and Marcel in the dev team have spent a fair bit of time making the new website FAST. The release we put live last Thursday was pretty slow – particularly the personalised watch list. But we’ve made two significant leaps forward over the last week and the second change goes live today.
Fast isn’t particularly sexy. As a product manager, it’s dangerously easy to overlook crucial things like a website’s performance in favour of more glamorous features. Especially when that’s often what stakeholders care about. Features are tangible.
But fast is a feature.
Last year, after a week’s dabbling in the dark arts of website caching, a top notch dev by the name of Andrew Revell managed to considerably improve the performance of RT’s sister site Good Food. And in doing so, increased the number of page views by more than one hundred percent. There are very few new features that could do that for you.
Every so often he would wander by my desk and tap me on the shoulder and say things like: “Fast. It’s a feature.” And wander off again in a well-deserved smug developer haze. And he’s right.
I’m very lucky to be working on Radio Times with not one but two equally talented chaps and a technology partner who have between them turned the new RT from being a bit of a dog on initial inception, to being a bit like the proverbial doodoo off a spade one week later.
Al has optimised the myriad of calls we’re making into a much small number. It makes sense to build it first and then tune it up once you can see what’s slowing it down. And after a day with his headphones on, you certainly notice the difference.
Marcel has created our “cache tea cosy”. Warming the cache means that all of the text, pictures and everything that makes up radiotimes.com are already loaded, ready and waiting for users.
Meanwhile, the guys at Meta Broadcast our technology partner have also been sprinkling fairy dust on the way they are processing the watchlist and that too has since a dramatic change in load speed.
We’ve only got 150 users at the moment and they’ve only been using it for a few days, so it’s impossible to see the affect on the site’s use. But I’m willing to bet that once the new site is properly live, we’ll see a dramatic increase in page views on the old site. In the main that will be because of the great new set of features we have developed. But the fact that the site is fast should not be under estimated.