Most startups talk about performance crucial. But often with all the other pressing business demands, it can be forgotten until it becomes a real problem.
Flipping through High Scalability today, I found a post about Stack Exchange’s performance dashboard.
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The dashboard for Stack Exchange performance is truly a tectonic shift. They have done a tremendous job with the design, to make this all visually appealing.
But to focus just on the visual aesthetics would be to miss many of the other impacts to the business.
1. Highlight reliability to the business
Many dashboards, from Cacti to New Relic present performance data. But they’re also quite technical and complicated to understand. This inhibits their usefulness across the business.
The dashboard at Stack Exchange boils performance down to the essentials. What customers are viewing, how quickly the site is serving them, and where bottlenecks are if any.
2. What’s our architecture?
Another thing their dashboard does is illustrate their infrastructure clearly.
I can’t count the number of startups I’ve worked at where there are extra services running, odd side utility boxes performing tasks, and general disorganization. In some cases engineering can’t tall you what one service or server does.
By outlining the architecture here, they create a living network diagram that everyone benefits from.
3. Because Fred Wilson says so
4. Focus on page loading times!
If you scroll to the very bottom of the dashboard, you have two metrics. Homepage load time, and their “questions” page. The homepage is a metric everyone can look at, as many customers will arrive at your site though this portal. The questions page will be different for everyone. But there will be some essential page or business process that it highlights.
By sifting down to just these two metrics, we focus on what’s most important. All of this computing power, all these servers & networks are all working together to bring the fastest page load times possible!
5. Expose reliability to the customer
This performance page doesn’t just face the business. It also faces the customers. It lets them know how important speed is, and can underscore how serious the business takes it’s customers. Having an outage or a spike that’s slowing you down. Customers have some transparency into what’s happening.