Breaking Free from Performance Bottlenecks

How my team helped Pantheon build a lightning-fast user experience

Pantheon is one of the fastest, most reliable WebOps platforms on the market. But when their own website stopped reflecting the speed and user-friendliness they offered clients, they turned to our team.

In this case study I’ll walk through the challenge, how we tackled it, and the stellar results we got. Note: I was the strategist, analyst and account manager for this project, and worked with a team to implement the fixes for this project.

Read the original
case study here:

The Problem: Tech Debt
Holding Back a Great Platform

As Head of Product Strategy & Partnerships at XWP, I was excited to take on this challenge and showcase my performance optimization skills and strategy guidance.

Pantheon’s platform was blazing-fast, but their website wasn’t delivering the same experience. It suffered from confusing navigation, unclear value propositions, and sluggish load times. Their focus on innovating their core product had left their own website in need of an upgrade.

I worked with the XWP team internally, led initially by the great Cathi Bosco (who eventually would work at Pantheon herself!) to focus on UX.

The Strategy: Encourage Performance as a Holistic Philosophy

My approach to performance goes beyond just raw speed. I believe the entire user journey matters—from navigation to accessibility to behind-the-scenes code. And you adapt performance (like the Pantheon team did) into the whole team’s perspectives, you’ll not be slow: You’ll embed into every opportunity safeguards to keep your UX at the top level.

Many organizations at the time said “let the tech team figure it out,” or “we already made it fast last year, why’s it still slow?” Well, the issue is that many teams misunderstand how complicated the Web is, and if you’ve got a slew of martech tools—from custom A/B testing to analytics—it’s going to require embrace by the whole team.

Here’s how we put the performance philosophy into action:

  • UX Overhaul: Cathi led a close review of the entire user experience. We looked for every opportunity to streamline navigation, crafted compelling copy that invited engagement, and made major strides in accessibility improvements.
  • Speed as a Weapon: I meticulously demonstrated ways we could optimize assets, tackle render-blocking issues, and implement cutting-edge development practices for a lightning-fast experience. Note: As Drupal’s plugin ecosystem didn’t then have the same automated performance enhancements as WordPress, I needed to perform a more exhaustive review.
  • Empowerment Through Knowledge: I provided in-depth training to Pantheon’s marketing team, ensuring they could confidently maintain their site’s newfound performance edge.

In addition to a host of other UX-focused improvements, Sarah saw us wrangle her marketing department’s biggest challenge: How to sanely plan to keep the MarTech stack optimized.

It’s a common issue, but still a difficult one: In a world where more and more JavaScript is needed to run in the browser, how can we sanely optimize loading these resources without losing critical features? Where is the sweet spot between more and less?

Considering Pantheon is one of the best enterprise lead-generating players in the website game, they used a sophisticated stack behind the scenes to grow their business including:

  • Social Tracking Pixels
  • Google AdWords Scripts
  • A/B Testing Scripts
  • Retargeting Tools

The strategy was to target real-user metrics first: Target 🟢 Fast for all three Core Web Vitals for a minimum of 3 out of every 4 visitors. Google’s documentation calls this:

The “75th Percentile” approach

[75% is targeted to help] developers understand the most frustrating user experiences on their site.

These field metric values are classified as the important thresholds [to focus on first].

Google PageSpeed Insights Documentation

We were able to quickly hit those targets by better queueing the resources to load, and by implementing lazy loading for all resources (including JS, CSS and images).

The Quote that Says It All

“XWP is a valuable resource that we trust. …we see them as a part of Pantheon’s future success.”

Sarah Fruy, Director of Brand and Digital Experience, Pantheon

Sidebar: They loved it, so they brought us to their customers, too!

Pantheon, one of the top agency-tech partnerships I’ve been a part of, was so excited about these results and our other ecosystem activities that they wanted to bring this to the wider family of folks using Pantheon.

I did a few events, including this webinar you can still see today.

Lessons Learned

  • Inside-Out Innovation: Even the best tech teams can benefit from an outside perspective and specialized expertise.
  • Performance is an Investment: Investing in speed and UX optimization delivers tangible returns in user engagement and business growth.
  • Collaborative Wins: The best outcomes happen when I combine my strategic vision with the internal knowledge and talent of my clients.

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