Product leadership:
“Fast” for the whole web

How I led XWP’s approach in developing a suite of performance products for website owners

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.

Blurry shot side fast-driving car

The Challenge:
So many slow websites!

Websites have too many performance bottlenecks, all need sustainable tools, and training wasn’t there

Website owners often face performance limitations that hinder user experience, SEO, and growth potential. These issues can arise from outdated tech stacks, reliance on inflexible plugins, or a lack of user-centric optimization strategies. I’ve witnessed firsthand how these pain points can stifle a website’s success.

Improvements in mobile site speed positively affect a brands bottom line

With [just a] 0.1s natural mobile site speed improvement, we observed:

  • Retail conversions increased by 8.4% and average order value increased by 9.2%.
  • Travel conversions increased by 10.1% and average order value increased by 1.9%.
  • Lead generation information pages bounce rate improved by 8.3%
Deloitte White Paper: “Milliseconds Means Millions.” Mar 2020.

Solution:
Focus on Real-user Speed, Adaptability, and Empowerment

My approach centers around three key principles:

  1. Prioritize Lightning-Fast Experiences (and measure it appropriately!)
    In a mobile-first world, page speed is paramount. I encoruage optimize sites for rapid loading, especially on mobile devices, to enhance user engagement and boost search rankings – based on the actual users you have. Tools like CrUX/PageSpeed Insights, Calibre, and the Performance Site Tracker we built make this possible
  2. Embrace Flexible Solutions but be aware of what’s the real test.
    Advocate for eliminating rigid, outdated plugins with scalable tools that adapt to websites’ evolving needs. Experimentation is GOING to happen: If you’ve both remediated by default and have correct monitoring in place, your smaller iterative changes are a lot less likely to be detrimental with layout shifts or content flashes.
  3. Empower Teams through Training.
    All humans that touch your website should understand how their technology works. We developed comprehensive training and resources so teams can confidently manage their sites’ performance—much of which is shared on the web. I think what makes training effective is approachable content like the following example:

The Power of Performance: Building a Faster, More User-Centric Web

In Summer 2022, I was invited to WordCamp 2022 in Porto, Portugal—the largest international WordPress conference, which also happens to be the biggest content management system event in the world as well.

via wordpress.tv

Key Takeaways: I walk through the journey of being at the forefront of page speed innovations: How page load speed impacts user experience (UX), search engine optimization (SEO), and conversion rates.

  1. Performance is a Mindset, Not Just a Metric: Embrace a performance-first philosophy across all aspects of website design and development.
  2. Prioritize the Four Pillars of Web Performance: Focus on page speed, usability, conversion, and retention for a holistic approach.
  3. Utilize the Right Tools and Measure Success: Leverage performance monitoring tools and track key metrics to guide your optimization efforts.

Here are some of the best vignettes from the time
we spent in building out our performance efforts:

Revamping AMP and Web Stories for Media Organizations 

My journey started off before we designed a comprehensive organizational strategy for the market in page speed.

As an individual contributor I was the Product Owner for initiatives like AMP for WordPress and Web Stories. I spearheaded performance improvements impacting billions of daily page views. These tools offered lightning-fast loading times and engaging multimedia formats, boosting traffic and user satisfaction across numerous large-scale media websites. The AMP for WordPress plugin alone boasts over 600k+ active installations.

WordPress Quality Assurance at Scale

With WP Tide, I led the development of an innovative tool that automates code quality testing and reporting for WordPress plugins and themes. This drastically reduced testing time from days to minutes for thousands of plugins, streamlining development and helping website owners make informed decisions.

Data-Driven Performance Enhancement

Alongside other company leaders, we developed custom tools and strategies to track website performance metrics. This gave internal and client stakeholders the insights they need to make informed decisions that drive tangible outcomes, like increased traffic, higher conversion rates, and improved SEO.

Stock Graph

Broader Impact through Guidanc

My work extended beyond in-house product development. I owned all things “site reviews” and regularly advised clients on what to do. Sometimes it was easy: Replace a poor-performing plugin. Other times it was exhaustive and required strategic guidance, impacting over 1000 websites directly and contributing to code quality improvements across the entire WordPress ecosystem.

We saw upwards of 100M+ Sites Improved as our work with Jetpack Boost substantially improved the page speed of the whole WordPress.com blog network

Sports stopwatch, timepiece

Outcomes

  • 3+ In-house Products Launched from 0 to 1: Spearheading a culture of product development at XWP
  • 1,000+ Websites Optimized directly: Delivering tangible performance improvements for XWP’s clients and their sites
  • 600k+ Active Plugin Installs: With widespread adoption of my work for Google.

Lessons Learned

As the work surrounding performance over my 5 years at XWP covers a lot, we could cover a lot of ground. In taking a broad overview, I think there are three big learnings I’d glean from each effort under our performance program:

  • Don’t Be Afraid of Big Changes: Tech debt can be a major roadblock. Sometimes, a transformative upgrade is the answer, not just a quick fix.
  • Collaboration and User-Centricity are Key: Bringing together developers, project owners, and end-users ensures the creation of solutions that truly meet everyone’s needs.
  • Invest in Long-Term Growth: Building scalable, sustainable tools empowers teams to continuously optimize their sites for success.

Want to discuss how I can help
your website reach its full potential?