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on 4 November 2008
For once, it's nice to have an dev book not full of useless screenshots and blatitudes going beyond 500 pages. This little gem is a delightful stroll through a field I see ignored in most projects too often.

While the authors does not say everthing there is to say about web site optimization, the advice here will be more than enough to out do competitors, to set you a level or two above fellow developers and to show some light on issues that you will probably never find out for yourself unless you do a lot of testing, which you never have time to do, considering the strict deadlines imposed on most projects. Fortunately, Steve Souders has already done this for us.

I love the concept of just doing 14 chapters, each for a given solution, explanining it concisely, giving real world metrics and sticking to the point. Good also that he shows how he did the tests and how he analysis top web sites.

To sum it up, I think this should be a must not only for the front-end engineers, as the book suggests, but also for any developer having to do with the web (, php, whatever) and architects, project leads, whatever. The book is short and plain, so you have no excuse. It will benefit you no matter what.
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on 23 November 2007
The book I reviewed is called High Performance websites ( Essential Knowledge for Frontend Engineers ). It is written by Steve Souders who is Chief Performance at Yahoo. The book explains common causes of pages taking a long time to display then offers 14 performance rules for front end engineers to consider implementing .

I am reviewing this book having been involved in front-end development since 1998 and worked on some of the most visited sites in the UK.

I was sceptical when I heard about this book. I feared it would be a rehash of hoary old advice such as optimise images by using jpegs for photographs, however the high quality of the O'Reilly library persuaded me that Mr Souders might have something more to offer.

When the book arrived on my desk I was pleasantly surprised by its size. It is only 145 pages long. Considerably shorter then my credit card statements and a much more enjoyable read.

The first two chapters are introductory. The first chapter ( 5 pages) explains the importance of front end development. This is useful because it concisely presents the technical case for investing time and resources in optimising the front end layer of a website.

The second chapter explains what happens to a server when a html page loads and where the major delays are. I enjoyed reading it. It bought to together bits of information I'd picked up from a disparate range of sources. It was nice to see them together and in context. The restricted focus on the effects of code on performance (and not databases meant) that I could extract useful information quickly.

The remaining 14 chapters each described one point in a 14 point plan to increase the speed of a website. Obviously this plan is available on-line. There are two advantages to buying the book. The first is that you will obtain supporting information such as graphs and useful code samples. The second is that the in-depth explanations will demonstrate to you why each particular point is a good idea. In a commercial environment this will enable you to better argue your corner when competing with conflicting interests within the organisation.

Rather then replace the content of the book, the online content supports it and makes it easier to produce a useful end product. The YSlow tool is available via the Yahoo developer network. I recommend every developer download this.

In an ideal world the online advertising managers and Emedia studios would read this book and it would influence the creation and display of online media content. In my opinion and according to the research I've done using YSlow, this is the main thing slowing them down.


In summary this book deserved to be an addition to every professional web developers library.

The advice contained within can be used immediately to make low cost and effective changes to benefit the visitor experience on your site.

However its benefits won't be fully realised until its finding are understood and accepted by the ecommerce marketing audience.
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on 24 November 2007
Wow. What a great book.

I took this book, because it is very short, just 168 pages. I asked myself, what this guy can say in just 168 pages about performance? Maybe some introduction to the topic? First two chapters just confirmed my assumptions. There is nothing new, just some general information that I already knew.

How big was my surprise when I finished chapter 3 - first rule (out of 14). Author was able to explain what is the problem with too many http requests and how to make fewer requests. Even I am not a performance guru (just a developer) it was clear enough how should I build my web pages in the future. Even more, he gave me a felling that I should change my current pages.

Next couple chapters are even better, especially description how important is to put css and js imports in the correct place on web page, and how big impact they might have when they are in wrong place. The chapters about Expiry headers and ETags are also awesome. Author describes how cache in web browser works, what are conditional gets and how to make a proxy more efficient.

I finished a book with a feeling that I can easily change my pages to work much faster than they are today. And you know what - I will not spend much time for that one.

I recommend this book for everybody who writes web pages even for personal use. You will be surprised how big amount of knowledge you can get from 168 pages.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 August 2009
I work full time in the field of website delivery performance, and spend much of my time examining commercial websites of large and small companies for issues hindering their performance in the browser. There are a select few people out there who have their sites well designed and optimised (perhaps they have already read this book?). However, for every one of these there are at least nine who have left considerations about page loading times to one side and let their web developers have full reign to implement the functional design driven primarily by the creatives with little if any heed paid to how this might perform in a browser at the end of an unreliable Internet connection, perhaps half way around the globe. This is fine by me, as it leaves a lot of scope for me to provide services which give instant improvements and shore up their poor design. However, if you really want to give the best possible user experience, you need to start with the fundamentals, before you start turning to third parties for help. This short, but incredibly useful book covers all you need to know about designing your website to load as swiftly as possible in the browser for a given page design, and its contents are nuggets of pure gold. If you design, develop or manage websites and you haven't read this book, you really are missing a very big trick indeed. Buy it. Read it. Do it!
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on 19 January 2011
I own this book and I have to say it is very good and is spot on... but If you use Mozilla Firefox there is an add-on called Firebug (essential for front-end developers) which has this guys YSlow Add-on. It analyses the performance of your site and gives you feed back that is the same as these chapter headings nearly word for word.
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on 29 October 2013
This book is quite thin, so I was hoping for some meaty content; didn't really deliver in my opinion. There are 14 short chapters each focusing on a rule. I found chapters 1 to 4 quite interesting and I learnt a few new things, but these are similar in style and length to blog posts - in fact the first chapter links back to an A List Apart article I read years ago. After that things go downhill with chapters that either cover obscure features, tell you to avoid doing things that no-one seems to do, or explain things that have since become common knowledge. To give the book some credit many of the techniques, such as minifying Javascript, were not all that commonly adopted back in 2007. The Internet has changed vastly in the meantime deprecating a lot of the content - not that there was all that much to begin with. The book is finished off/filled out with a comparison of websites with lots of diagrams and screenshots.
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VINE VOICEon 2 September 2014
Excellent, this really can make a huge difference to the speed of your website.
I improved our website by a factor of 5 by following the tips here and using a website too GTMetrix, which basically tests your website based on YSLOW and the google website optimiser).

The only thing to be wary of is you probably won't need federated content (Content Delivery Networks) or ETTags unless your site is truly huge. Otherwise a quick recommendation and some explanation in each chapter is perfect, too many tech books bloat out to convince you that you've got your money's worth.
Not sure if gzipping on the fly works in IIS, it didn't work for me in IIS 6 days and like a lot of O'Reilly books this favours open source over the Microsoft stacks.

Highly recommended.
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on 11 January 2011
The best way to improve the user experience of your web site in by not making the user wait between pages. To do this, you need to understand how HTTP, HTML, CSS, Javascript, web browsers, web servers and networks work. Steve Sounders explains all these, and shows how even the most visited sites on the internet, from tech savvy firms have got it wrong.

The chapters are arranged in decreasing order of utility, so the second half of the book will be little use to most developers. If you have the yslow plugin and a bit of common sense, then you will be able to tune your application without reading the book (although it will take longer).

I think Yslow was developed by Sounders, so it's worth purchasing the book as the plugin is free.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 October 2008
I remember when I first started using the Internet. Dial ups were extremely slow at the time, so I'd type in a URL, then go make a sandwich. By the time I came back, hopefully the page would be loaded.

Today, we expect more. Often if a page takes more than a few moments to load, I don't bother. I tend to equate professional with quick. If a site doesn't load quickly or if parts of the page are slow, I naturally assume that the information provided might be as shabbily compiled. I simply move onto a different page.

High Performance Web Sites looks at how we can make our own websites load more quickly. I was surprised at how many different little things that can be done beyond optimizing graphics. Most of these things only take a few little nips and tucks and none were beyond my novice level of ability.
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on 24 October 2015
No problems.
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