May 31, 2016

We Give a Hoot

As our team of impassioned front-end developers hammer their anvils in harmony, they’re putting influential principles in motion. We code with grace. We stride through our text editors with elegance and poise. Our minds and fingers fly with synchronicity in a display you could only describe as “truly inspiring”.

Maybe that’s not exactly the case, but we’re certainly passionate about what we do. Our team cares about the quality of work we produce, and about the principles we employ. We craft with great discretion and intention. Sometimes with grace, and sometimes with gallons of cold brew and thrash metal.

When we’re not producing sleek, performant projects, then we’re learning and exploring new methods. We're exercising forward-looking principles to use in future projects. For Front-end development, our work has a strong emphasis on performance. Almost everything we ship has a golden rule of keeping performance in tip top shape, and for good reason:

The faster and more performant your site or system is, the happier your users are - and that’s immensely important.

Performance is Important to Your Business Goals

A slow site means unhappy users, and unhappy users are lost conversions, lost leads, and lost potential customers. There are plenty of experiments, writings, articles, blog posts, and other evidence on the web to show exactly how poor performance negatively affects your business. Not only that, it directly affects the efforts of your Marketing Team. Performance is the double-edged blade that can make or break your marketing efforts. Performance is the difference between a user signing up for your trial, or leaving before the site has a chance to load. The Marketing Team needs performance to succeed.

Marketing can be the Performance Killer

Once our team has a project primed and ready for launch, glistening with sleek and innovative performance optimizations, it doesn’t take long before we’re asked to “add scripts to the footer” (or similar). These marketing scripts are usually javascript, and typically track visitor behavior. Other variations might deliver ads or capture information about the user so targeted ads could be delivered.

Each script requires the visitor’s browser to fetch data from the script’s originating server. This action causes delays in a user’s load time. These scripts also often manipulate the structure of the HTML, causing even more delays. Sometimes they load even more scripts, affecting the performance exponentially. These delays aren’t insignificant - these tracking scripts effectively extinguish our performance efforts causing sites to plummet in load speed, and increase visitor exits.

The bottom line is that these scripts dramatically hurt performance, and exponentially so for each script added.

It’s not uncommon to see our page load-times increase by 100-300% or more when these tracking scripts are implemented. That can mean a lot of unhappy users, many lost conversions, and many more missed opportunities for your Marketing Team to accomplish their goals.

We All Want the Same Thing

It’s easy for us front-enders to perpetuate a burning rage for marketing tracking scripts. It's even easier to throw our hands in the air and “let the Marketing Team do whatever they want”. However, this misses the bigger point: the Marketing Team, the front-end developers, and especially our larger teams overall, we all want the same thing. We want the project to succeed.

These tools and tracking scripts provide insight to information not readily accessible through other means. They have essentially become a staple to online-marketing. We understand they’re not going anywhere, they’re useful to the Marketing Team, and they’re (gradually) getting better. With that in mind, we understand their place in our ecosystem.

Can’t Force It

We’re always working with performance in mind, but some contracts have an explicit performance element to target specific business goals. Rarely are these requirements truly hellish. However, when it comes to the marketing integrations and the effects they have on a project’s performance, our hands are tied. A site’s performance is at the full-mercy of several layers of technology: DNS resolution, server delay and delivery, script optimization, structure, DOM manipulation and much more.

Even the best developers’ hands are tied when it comes to improving the performance of marketing scripts.

The Solution

I’m not suggesting we sever ties with all tracking scripts. The easiest way to retain the performance, the happy users, and the higher conversion rates would be to get choosey with that tracking and marketing system you utilize. It might seem like using as many marketing services as your budget allows will improve conversions and inflate your overall return, but the ramifications are unavoidable - your site’s performance will drop severely, and your goals will suffer. Also, most of these marketing services offer the same (or similar) functionalities. Having several is definitely overkill.

Google Analytics is certainly the most commonly used service, and it’s fairly performant. With all that Google Analytics provides, how many more services do you need? Knowing that your performance will suffer (and knowing your site’s performance is directly related to your marketing success) what specific functionality do you absolutely need?

I should also state that we’re more than happy to help you answer these questions. Please ask us for insight on what services have been troublesome or performant and easy to implement. Chances are we’ve worked with the services you’re considering or currently using.


We’ve recently caught wind of a service that aggregates tracking actions and feeds them to various tracking sources via an API. In other words, it’s a central service that speaks to multiple marketing and tracking services. Its primary feature could retain performance by only existing as a single service while feeding data to a plethora of other services. This behavior is distinctly different than the Google Tag Manager. It’s a service called Segment, and it looks quite promising.