Web Performance Calendar

The speed geek's favorite time of year
2021 Edition
Tanner Hodges photo

Tanner Hodges (@atannerhodges) is a web developer at Red Ventures, trying to help people understand complex things in simple ways.

We’re at another inflection point in Web history. Web3 is all the rage, as is privacy, security, AR/VR, edge computing, quantum computing, 5G, Internet of Things, and beyond. More browsers are converging, new features are coming out every day, and everyday developers are just trying to keep up.

How does web performance fit into this wide world of technology? What part do we play in this global system?

Specifically, how do we introduce newcomers to our discipline? And where do amateurs go to become experts?

We have a fantastic community, but our knowledge is scattered. There’s no one-stop-shop for people practicing performance.[1]

Core Web Vitals was an enormous leap forward: it simplified the metrics landscape and expanded our view of performance beyond speed. Now non-experts can focus on a few simple metrics, and experts can speak more broadly about user experience. Both huge wins!

But while Core Web Vitals acts as a capstone, I believe we’re still missing a beginning and end: an introduction to performance in general, and principles for practicing performance beyond general metrics.

These concepts are intuitive to experts but virtually unknown to amateurs.

I propose (or rather request) a general theory of web performance.[2]

Ingredients for a general theory

To form a general theory of web performance, I propose four key ingredients:

  • Definition: What is “performance” beyond page speed? What, in particular, is “web performance”?
  • Purpose: What is the purpose of web performance as a discipline? What are its goals?
  • Principles: What are this discipline’s guiding principles?
  • Practice: What does it look like to practice web performance? How do we do it?

I believe we have all the pieces to answer these questions, it’s just a matter of organizing them together. Doing so will give us the foundation we need to provide clear guidance to both newcomers and experts, both to understand our world as it is today and to face the challenges of tomorrow.

[^1]: web.dev is a growing resource, and is the source of truth for learning about Core Web Vitals. It has excellent material, but hasn’t been organized (yet) to answer the four fundamental questions. Learn Web Vitals would be an excellent place to start! For example, the collection could highlight articles like User-centric performance metrics where beginners learn the context of performance first before jumping into specific metrics.

[^2]: web.dev’s article User-centric performance metrics is the closest material I’ve found so far to a general theory. Specifically, Kenji Baheux’s key user moments (Is it happening? Is it useful? Is it usable? Is it delightful?) are a tremendous framework for defining meaningful performance metrics. This is the article I currently recommend newcomers read first, as it introduces the concepts of performance, types of data, and types of metrics—all vital for building a clear mental model of web performance.