Archive for August, 2009

Book Review: Even Faster Web Sites

August 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Today’s Web developer knows that the speed of one’s site is an important measure to its overall success, and Steve Souders’ previous book, High Performance Web Sites (O’Reilly), laid out what seemed to be every way to achieve good performance gains without the sacrifice of functionality or aesthetics. When I began reading Souders’ Even Faster Web Sites, I therefore wondered how he could possibly demonstrate fresh ways to achieve performance gains without regurgitating the content of his previous book. What I discovered as I read Even Faster Web Sites was it presented all new best practices for making your web sites “leaner and meaner” without repeating the content of his last book.

Even Faster Web Sites takes the latest techniques available to developers and organizes them into three performance areas: JavaScript, network, and browser. Though I believe Souder knows what he is talking about regarding web site performance, I found it refreshing this time around that he had the contributions of other experts in the field to give their ideas on performance gains in these areas.

I thought the chapters on JavaScript, especially those discussing Ajax and asynchronous techniques, were well written and gave good, new best practices to trim time off the loading of content on a site.  I also appreciated the chapter dealing with Comet, as these technologies are surely a driving force for future web applications, and having best practices early in their development will only help their progress.  Of the two chapters on browser performance, I found the honesty of the discussion on the downsides of using iframes most helpful, especially when their use was discussed as a viable technique for improving performance early in the book.  I did find the chapter on CSS selectors extremely useful for analyzing where slowdowns in styling may exist based on browser implementation.  The chapters on network performance gave a good background on common hindrances such as connection limits and poor image choices, but also walked through what I felt were performance gains that can be made through less utilized techniques like chunked encoding and better compression.

Souder finished this book with an Appendix on performance tools that can be used to help in the improvement of a web site, which I found to be immensely helpful.  While many tools he listed are well known to developers, there are some I was unaware of and began making use of immediately on my own sites.

Even Faster Web Sites is an excellent follow-up to High Performance Web Sites, giving new best practices for making your web sites even faster.  As I see it, even hundredths of a second begin to add up when you put all of these techniques together, and most of the techniques presented in this book are practical for any web site being developed.  I would recommend this book to any developer looking for ways to improve the performance of his web site, as Souder has certainly demonstrated his knowledge and expertise on improving the speed of a site.

***** (5 stars)

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