Netflix's low-hanging fruit

With a stroke of convenient timing, Addy Osmani published a tear-down of some performance improvements made by Netflix to their landing pages.

In short: by removing client-side React from their landing pages and replacing it with vanilla JS for the simple interactive enhancements on those pages, Netflix were able to reduce the loading time and time-to-interactive measures by 50%.

One of the big five mistakes I identified in my article about single-page apps last week was using the SPA approach unilaterally.

For most product companies (I’m thinking SaaS products in particular), landing pages and the core product serve different user and business needs.

Landing pages are there to help potential customers decide whether they are interested in the product, and direct them to the next stage in the funnel. There are very few (maybe only one) chances to do this.

On the other hand, the core product is there to fulfill customers’ goals, help them complete tasks, and make them more awesome generally (to paraphrase Kathy Sierra). Depending on the product, users may be spending a lot more time here.

Those are two completely different usage profiles. So, the way you measure success is different. You might measure funnel conversion rates for landing pages, and a host of measures of usage, task completion, product satisfaction and churn for the product itself.

A different definition of success means different performance measurements: initial un-cached load is important for landing pages. Ongoing application performance (network interactions, re-renders) is important to keep churn rates down in the core product.

And different performance goals imply completely different technical strategies for server- and client-side rendering, caching, prefetching, asset delivery, use of offline features, etc, etc.

So, if your single-page product app is also serving your landing page experience, you might find that the differing goals conflict with your technical approach. This can have genuine financial implications for products that depend on healthy funnel metrics. It’s often the landing pages that suffer.

In a 2-by-2 matrix of impact vs effort, this kind of change is usually very much in the ‘low-hanging fruit’ / ‘quick win’ quadrant, as opposed to the ‘thankless task’ you might identify with much of the work that goes on…

The financial uptick from these Netflix improvements is not mentioned. From past experience optimising the Sky’s home page a few years ago, it’s likely to have been substantial given the funnel traffic and revenue at stake.

I do hope the people involved negotiated a percentage of the take (I didn’t).

What ‘quick wins’ have you made in the past that resulted in a big financial upside? Reply and tell me all about it.

All the best,

– Jim

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