Jonathan Day from Aligent: The Secrets to Optimizing Site Performance | #315

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Jonathan shares everything you need to know about keeping your site up to speed

ep 315

Jonathan is an experienced leader in eCommerce, respected in Australia and overseas. Since entering the emerging web industry in the late 90s, Jonathan has delivered ground-breaking projects, spanning from North American clients such as and Zumiez, through to numerous “world-firsts” in the Magento community under the Aligent banner. Aligent has pioneered initiatives that deliver outstanding customer experiences in domains such as Headless, Subscriptions, B2B and omnichannel. Established by Jonathan in 2009. Aligent has grown to more than 100 staff, delivering eCommerce solutions with brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Kathmandu, Coopers Brewery and Mitsubishi Motors. Aligent's success is founded on passion for quality, long-term relationships and community.

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Jonathan Day, Founder of Aligent

Aligent is an Adelaide based ecommerce agency specialising in ecommerce development, design and strategy. Established in 2009, they now have over 100 team members and develop ecommerce solutions for brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Kathmandu, Coopers Brewery and Mitsubishi Motors. I catch up with Jonathan frequently and always get so much out of his passion for designing better ecommerce solutions. There were a number of areas we considered going down but we decided on site performance because we think it is a crucial area for retailers to get right as we move towards peak trade season. If you don’t get website performance right, you risk losing a huge amount of sales – no matter how much you invest in marketing.

In this chat, Jonathan shares why performance isn’t just a technical activity but an exercise in understanding and reacting to customer psychology. He breaks down why Google’s Core Web Vitals should be the tool you use to measure your website performance – and breaks down the metrics you should be looking at. He gives us other tools to measure errors, load testing and more. And he shares why getting site performance right is similar to how Disneyland designs their ride experience. Got you in now? 

“There is a bit of FUD and noise out there in the industry and it can be quite easy to focus on the wrong thing”

Jonathan Day

Core Web Vitals are vital!

“The consistency of (website) performance absolutely influences the effectiveness of your sales. Unfortunately, we’re seeing right now consumers are very motivated by sale. End of financial and other mid-year click frenzy have had good results, but consumers seem to be waiting for them. So, even more emphasis to make sure you can scale at that point. 

In terms of do we know that in 2023, the whole industry needs to address this? Certainly. Google continues to reinforce that. So they are adding another metric to the Core Web Vitals. There’s a fourth metric coming in March 2024. So it’s only nine months away at most if we’re recording this in June. That’s not long to get yourself ready. And what we know, and Google are explicit about is that they will take your performance on call with vitals into account for ranking. So you can have the best content in the world, but if you’re not, um, delivering a good experience as measured by Core Web Vitals, your rankings are going to suffer.”

Getting the loading indicator balance right

“There are ways that you can reduce the effect of some of those frustrating delays through good UX patterns. Have you been to Disneyland? One of the things that they’ve pioneered, and every theme park in the world has learnt from, is the ability to not have people feel like they’re waiting in a line. No one likes that. 

So how do you both entertain people while they are waiting inevitably, but also break things up and give different visual cues as you’re moving through that line so that you’re much less aware of the fact you’ve actually been waiting for 45 minutes. You’ve actually enjoyed the experience or not been aware of the fact that you’re sitting there with the old spinner, the loading indicator. Let’s try to use some psychology to help reduce that appearance.

There’s a balance to be found, making smart decisions about when to show a loading indicator. So we can be optimistic about the performance of our website. If we’re confident that under the majority of conditions that the next page is gonna load in less than a second, don’t show a loading indicator.  However, set a little timer that if, for some reason it’s taking more than say a second, then trigger the loading indicator.”

Customer expectation is the benchmark

A few years ago, one of our clients said to us, customers are ringing us up and telling us that the website is broken. And we’re like, the website’s not broken. What do you mean? And they’re like, well, I can’t check the store stock in the Chatswood store, so it’s broken. Oh, no, that’s not broken. We just haven’t built that yet. 

But the expectation from the consumer was that, of course you’ve got the ability to see live stock into the Chatswood store. So we have to continually be lifting the bar around that interactivity, and that continues to create performance challenges and opportunities.”

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