3: Notre Dame’s Web Speed Strategy w/ Erik Runyon

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Erik Runyon, Technical Director at the University of Notre Dame discusses tools and strategies to minimize web page weight and load times in order to maximize prospective student behavior.

Attracting today's new post,traditional learners, means adopting new enrolmant strategies. Keelikseducations data driven enterprise, wide approach to enrolment growth isuniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this neweducation, landscape and Helox has just published the second edition of theirenrollment growth playbook, with fifty percent brand new content on howinstitutions can solve today's most pressing enromant growth challengesdownload it today for free at Helocks, Educationcom, playbook, you're, listening to enrolment growth,university from heliks education, the best professional development podcastfor higher education leaders looking to Growin Roman at their college oruniversity, whether you're looking for fresh and romant growth techniques andstrategies or tools and resources. You've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show, welcome back to enromant growth,university, Imeri, Golson, AVP of marketing at helicks education andwe're here today with Eric Ronyan technical director at the University ofNoderdame Eric how you doing today doing great thanks. Hari me thanks somuch for being here Eric and I first met at, I believe, a highed webconference five years ago. At the time he was about one of the only ones inhigh red, doing responsive web design really. Well. I remember he and PeterAngel, formerly from Bob Jones University, were comparing homepageload times and brainstormig how to limit the amount of serve request toshave off fractions of seconds and Maximi site speed, and I thought wow.This is a performance bace view of Web Development that I want to be a part offast forward. Five years, Peter Angels now are had developer, he licks andEric's one of the first people. I call when I have the web developmentquestion, he's absolutely one of the leading technical minds in highereducation and I'm acstatic to chat with him today about how norderdame thinksof website performance as an inroman growth strategy. But before we get deepinto that air, can you get the listeners a little bit betterunderstanding of both the University of noterdame and your rol there right? Sothe university notadame is a small...

...private Catholic University and NorthNorthwestern Indiana had his thing for a moment. There and e were primarily known for our football.I suppose, but we're only trying to make much more of a name for ourselvesfor research. We want to become the preeminent research Catholic Universityin the world, so I work for the Marketing Communications Department. Wehave the went team there, we worke on the main university home page and we'realso responsible for a number of top level pages, including I want to see wehave five hundred some websites in our cm. That's that we built and maintaininternally as well love it. Let's jump right into there for the pages that youmanage. Let's talk high level about website performance, it's effect onperspective student, Web Behavior and what your team does to maximizeperformance in general. So we've been pretty focused on web performance forquite a while. I think I started giving presentations on performance, probablystarting around two thousand eight or two thousand and nine, because you knowthe iphone had recently come out. Mobil was obviously going to keep growing andit seemed like at the time that websites were just growing and growingand size, and you know, with Sall Yular connections that that needed to backdown now that obviously hasn't happened. Websites have continued to grow andgrowing grow exponentially, even in higher edit's, just been climbing, likecrazy. For instance, I track Higher Ed, responsive website, and I have a listof thet out of my website. Well have a link in the show notes, but when Ifirst started doing this, I had like maybe sixteen hired websites that wereresponsive and at the time the average paid size I want to say, was around one point: Two megs wo and now with mymost recent numbers. It's I have about three hundred and nineteen Hiradwebsites and the average size is two...

...point: Six megabites and that's for themobile version. Yeah, not the not the dust top version and now th. Theproblem that I see here is an a corresponding number to. That is therender start time for these sites is around eight seconds so that from whenthe person you know hit your ourl in their phone, it starts rendering aftereight seconds, which is a long time and is not visually complete. The averageright now is twenty one seconds, and the problem with that is. There was areport by Sone Yorks and last year, where they did a study on stress andmobile delays with streaming and websites, and some interesting statsthey came out with was a found that heart rate increases thirty percent,with thirty ight percent, with mobile content delays and one of the thingsthat they cor. They like have this graph, where they show certain thingsthat can raise people stress and experiencing bobble delays is slightlyhigher than watching a horror movie. Now I don't know about you, but I canremember the first horror move that I saw I was in the fourth grade. I know whosehouse I was at. I remember the lay out in the living room yeah, who isbabysitting the name of the movie. I remember everything about that, becauseit was so stressful that it was sort of seered into me and personally, the lastthing I want to do is cause users. Who are you know these, these potentialstudents who are coming to our websites to be stressed because our websites areso slow and then associate that with our brand. You know, that's notsomething you really want, so the faster that you coan make your sitesit's going to create a much more positive experience and a much morepositive view of your university or college from the user standpoint loveit yeah and stresses one thing, but them giving up is incredibly likelywhen you're making them waited seconds to you famously publicized, noter DamesWebstass each month with which I just...

...love. What are you and your teamlooking for in these analytics to determine side, effectiveness, site,speed issues and then what kind of next steps do you take after analysis tomake sure you are continually improving each month? So those stats post, Ithink, are primarily with those I'm looking for trends with browsers and mobile trafficand whatnot, I'm not really using those as a performance from a preformancestandpoint. For that I usually rely on webpage test ubbworg, which is afantastic tool you can put in your website. You can even put in your urland like some other website, that you consider something you want a benchmarkagainst and you can have sideby side video of how quickly your sigt loadscompared to this other site, and another great thing about it is- willhelp you catch regressions for INSTANC. This is actually a very timely thing tonote. We just recently updated the architecture for our main DUBDUB DUBsite. We have been on Amazon, for I want to say seven or eight years nowit's been a while at least, and so it's finally time to upgrade thearchitecture for our primary website, and so last night I ran a test againstthe side again just to see how things were going and I noticed that our scoredropped to dramatically and upon digging in it. We realized that, in themove from the old architecture to the new architecture, Jesip wasn't turnedon, which is the server technology that will compress your files before sendingit down to the user, which is a major performance at like. I can't believe weactually alive with with that happening, but we were able to fix it within. Iprobably say thirty minutes, but if you don't monitor things like that, then itcould have gone for you know, weeks and weeks with users getting a subparkexperience from a performance standpoint from ou website so yeah. Sothe stats are more to watch for trends...

...and see which it browsers we need tosupport and how mobile is improving and then use other tools for actual pageperformance. I love it. Let's talk a little bit more about site speedbecause it seems like that is just a a primary focus of both you and your team.I know Google historically has been famous for talking about the benefitsof site speed and how you will rank higher. Google woul trust your sidemore from an authority standpoint. If you have a fast loading page, you werementioning to me offline that ead that facebook is kind of teasing a similaralgorithm here in in your future. Can you speak more about that yeah, so theyjust released an article o an would have been too two days ago, Mai ontheir news room D, facebook OCOM, and they are saying that an update that they are doing to theway that they loach show stories is that they are going to start takingpage speed into account there. We can put a link in show notes for this aswell. It's an interesting read, but what they will do is, though, look atestimate low time, a bled page when some clicks on it and start factoringthat into the persons network, and you know which stories are actually goingto be promoted more than others so yeah you mentioned, Google has been doingthat for quite a while. Another thing to take into account is https. Googleis also going to start prioritizing of secure connections over not secure, andI ran a stad against my list of websites a while back and it was wellunder half of Higher Ed universities that are forcing their Sihe ttdbhttpswell, which is another important thing that you should start doing, becausethere was a researcher from Stanford a couple years ago, who was at at anairport and loaded up, stanfords home page, and there were bannerads beinginjected by Egtnts Wifi, because the website wasn't secure. So not just froma you know, general security standpoint. The Google is going to be prioritizinghttps, plus going back to brand. It's...

...an important thing to have so that way,the farious networks are going to mess with your with your sites. Contentspeak a little bit more about that, because I think for most of us when wethink htpps, we think oh yeah, our bur stars office, has that win on the pageswhere students are are paying for the tuition or paying fees, and maybe we'renervous about pages that have inquiry forms. Why would it be important onpages where folks aren't transmitting personal information? Well, for onewould be the you know: Google prioritizing sites that are secure, butalso just making sure that the networks in between your sight and your useraren't injecting things that you wouldn't want as part of your sigt, solike the that that example, wit Stanford, would be an important one,and the thing is that in the past a lot of people sai well htgps is going to beslower, is willing not anymore in some instances, it's actually a little bitfaster and plus https. Is it free now there's websites where you can get freecertificates? If you're on aws, you can get a free certificate for any of yourwebsites that you're hosting there, which has saved us a bunch of money,and so, in light of all of that, we have actually started any new site thatwe build at at Nuger. Dame is https by default for the past, dont want to sayyear and a half almost two years we won't launch a site. That's not httpsanymore, you know is, should just be the way that we're doing business nowkind of like responsible of design. You know talk about well, do you wantresponsive? Of course, it's going to be part of the buildin build https shouldalso be just absolutely that's just how we built sites now love it love it.Let's talk about launching new sites, I feel like colleges, universities, everythree years. They talk about a site redesign and I think often, what is thepriority in their mind is looks outdated, maybe some navigation issueswe want to improve, or we have a new brand that we want to leverage. Howmuch should collgs universities focus...

...on visual esthetic when they areentering a redesign and how much should they balance that with any performanceissues that some of these modern designs may cause? I think performanceshould be one of the top priorities of anyredesign. For instance, our main website Doub Doub do that they needIddu. It's it's over five years old. Now we launched that April t thsand andtwelve, but one of the things that we had discussed is if you go and look atit now, you'll see a large image in the background, but what we one of thefirst things that we discussed about doing in that area was rather than alarge image. It would be a very subtle background, video that takes up theentire space. The thing was: is nobody was really doing this at that time. So,in one respect, I regret us not doing it because we would have been one ofthe first sites out there doing this. You know this subtle background, video,but ultimately lost out to performance. We were trying to find that balancebetween. You know something big and beautiful, versus something that loadsextremely quickly. So I mean we do a lot of lazy loading on the site. Youknow any images that aren't displayed when, when the sice first POPs up, wedon't even load until these are scrolls, because as pretty as you want it to be, if it's slow for the user to connectand actually see it, then then you're you'r kind of like breaking out some ofthat positive experience by by making things sold for your users.So you really got to find that balancing act between the visuals andperformance and performance should absolutely be part of the conversationfrom day one. I know you keep track of. Like you mentioned more than threehundred tirade websites. Specifically those are responsive. Can you provideus with some bench marks? Maybe not the average of the Higher Ed aggrogate, butjust in general things that our web teams should keep in mind in terms ofbasic page loage benchmarks that we should keep in mind in terms of let'stry to keep our home page under this...

...and our sub pages under this, and hejust just quick high level tips you can provide. So that's often referred to asa performance budget where you try to decide wewant it to load this fast onthis browser in this connection, and you really shoot for that goal, and nowoftentimes the home page budget will be difference from some pages, because youknow the home page will often have like the more the larger prettier picturesright. So that will often drive up the the pagesize, because you know imagesare the primary bloat for most Highe red websites right and websites ingeneral, so I'd say for the average sub page. I don't like to stay thewn overthree or four NDORK, and you know: try to load have a low time of less thantwo seconds easy. Like preferably one for the home pages. You can go a littlebit larger, but I still don't like to see a homepage of a site over, let's say five or six Hundredk, and youknow it really makes you focus on not just the design, but when you arecreating the imagery to make sure that you are compressing it correctly. Andyou know you have the correct image formats, because a lot of times peoplewill take like an image and just dump it from their phone onto the website.So it's important to train people in how to properly compress images and aswell as your SMS, make sure that you have some way of builting building inso it fill compress images even further, while now degrading the visuals.Obviously, but one nice thing that's coming along is: Have you heard ofservice workers, sure yeah, yeah, so service workers for the listeners thatdon't know it's a newer technology. It's replacing an older technologycalled APP cash and it allows for the developers to be very fine grained withhow assets are stored on the device, so you can take essentially take an entirewebsite storeid on the device. So that...

...way, if the user doesn't have aconnection or has a slow connection, it can load from the device and still befast and the Nice thing that just happened is the Webkit team. Just it came outyesterday that they are starting their initial plans to build service workers in tosfary. So right now it's supported by Crom and Firefox and hopefully withinthe next six months or so it'll be available in Safari, which is going tocover a vast majority of most people's user base. At that point, which meansthat you would be able to use these service workers to vastly increase thepage speed and maybe TNAT uninitial loan. You would still have to make surethat you focus on initial load performance but for repeat visits.Service workers are going to be great for improving performance and offlinedealing and ow. You earlier mentioned that the average high red home pages isover to meg. dipoint was confecure Ond, that's for the MOBL IT SATS for themobile, if, if folks are able to ugilize thesetools to compress their sites effectively and they can get to thosebenchmarks, you talked about. You know three hundred Ka for hundred page,maybe six hundred kmx for a home page with that, arguably put them in the topone to five percent of HIHRADG pages out there. Oh absolutely yeah. I justlooked at desktop, that's three pointing yeand like and like we talkedabout. If you focus on the right tools, you can make some staggeringperformance leaps quickly without sacrificing aesthetic experience andGoogle will favor you, facebook will now favor you yeah much more than yourpeere. So it's it's super exciting world to start digging into yeah, butit's a very important to make it part of the overall culture of the team and anybody who's involved. So I mean yourdesigners and the product owners. Everybody has to be all in on understanding and believingthat performance is important. Otherwise, it's going to start slippingand ishthetics are going to. You know,...

...win out over performance, terrific tiperic anything else knew that you're excited about either from a responsiveweb development standpoints or just a deav standpoint in general. You want tomake sure, as on our listeners, Ratar service workers. Is I've been excitedabout that? Since you know it first came out, it's a very cool technology.It's a little complicated initially, but a lot of tooling is coming out toreally help improve the building and maintaining of service workers, and nowthat safari is getting on board. That means that we're really really going tobe able to start using it in a you know much more across the board because youknow IOS is a big chunk of our mobile traffic and Noto Dame so once serviceworkers is available, there will really be able to start utilizing it to it'sfull of potential awesome Eric. Thank you so much for joining us today andsharing all the good stuff youn. Your team and noter NAM we're doing what'sthe best place for listeners to connect with do it, they have any followifquestions, probably twitter, it's he runnion Er Ou, N Yon, and I linked tomy website from there. So you an get o every everywhere else. If you want tocontact, you can do so either from twitter from my sighe awesome Ericthanks so much for joining us today. Thank you. So much for Havving me you've been listening to enromat growthuniversity from helics education to ensure that you never miss an episodesubscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you somuch for listening until next time.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (217)