If Slow and Steady Wins the Race Hillary May be on Track to 2016 Democratic Presidential Nomination

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If you don’t follow politics, you might not have noticed that there are actually two parties with candidates vying to become their party’s nominee for the general election.

Well, the Democrats have just held their first debate, and like the Republicans, we’ve been monitoring and tracking the performance of each candidate’s web site home page. Luck for us, there are only five significant democratic candidates.

The diagram below shows the web end user response time for each of the candidate’s web sites for the week leading up to the start of the debate:

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As you can see from the chart, while there is some variation in the response time of each of the candidates’ websites (along with an occasional spike now and then) the average is fairly consistent. Bernie Sanders generally had the fastest site, though he made a change the day before the debate between 4 and 6 pm that somewhat increased his response time such that he dropped to second place Lincoln Chafee. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton had the slowest responding web site.

For each web site, we measure over 10 different performance metrics of the home page, and we measure them for different network speeds including 3G, 4G, and Cable. The image below shows a table, for example, of eight of the key performance metrics measured at 4G network speeds just after the debate for the time period from 4-9 pm:

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We sort the sites according to the Speed Index metric which is a measure of how quickly the user will perceive the site to be, as it is computed as a ratio of the percentage of content rendered over time, which basically means that if two sites have similar Visually Complete times, the sight that renders more content sooner with be perceived to be faster than a site that renders a greater portion of its content later.

Some other interesting data points are that Martin O’Malley’s site has by far the biggest data load at 3.68 MB, but is the most efficient in the number of Resources Loaded per page view yet has the second fastest Speed Index and Visually Complete time, which is what really matters from an end user perspective. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton had the second highest data load at 2.78 MB, but was second slowest with a Speed Index of 8.5 and a Visually Complete time of 10.2 seconds. She also has the most in-efficient site coming in at 101 resources loaded. Jim Webb at the slowest performance despite having the least data at 0.71 MB and the most efficient resources loaded at 40, yet had a Speed Index of 11.2 seconds and a Visually Complete time 11.6 seconds.

The graphs below show the differences in performance at 3G and 4G network speeds between the period of the week leading up to the debate vs. the period of the debate:

3G Performance Dem Debate.png4G Performance Dem Debate.png

A journalist we spoke with could not believe that Hillary’s web site could be so slow and proposed that the data must be because she was supposedly getting so much traffic to her web site that it caused it to slow down and that if we looked at the data 3 am on a non-debate night that it would be much better.

Well, that’s a load of bunk and explains why he’s a political journalist and not a data scientist or web performance engineer. While it is certainly possible that a site could receive so much traffic that the infrastructure couldn’t handle it and would therefore slow down, the fact of the matter is that performance is more a function of the design of the web site and the architecture of the application serving it.

The fact of the matter is that we are measuring the web site performance of the candidates continuously at 30 minute intervals. As a result, it is easy to see that the performance over time is consistent (with minor variations) and is not so much affected by traffic, but perhaps occasionally when changes are being made to the content or other system factors. This is shown by the follow graph which shows several performance metrics of Hillary’s web site over the course of an entire week:

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The metrics shown in this graph (from bottom to top) are Hilliary’s First Byte time (blue), First Render time (aquamarine), Speed Index time (red), Visually Complete time (purple), and Complete Load time (green).

As is clearly shown by the graphs, while there is some variation, the general level of each of the metrics is quite consistent over time with little or no difference between peak traffic times and dead of night.

All of the candidates have many competing goals and objectives for their web sites. It’s a way of communication to supports and attracting new ones, it’s also a vehicle for raising funds, responding to new developments and other candidates, and dealing with the media. If a site doesn’t perform well, then the success of the site in achieving those goals could be affected. Regardless, it doesn’t help to have a speedy site if the content and features aren’t there for the intended audiences.

This is the delicate balance that all business and content providers must manage with web sites: understanding what the key business performance indicators for your site are and making sure that the technical performance of your site is helping you to achieve those objectives.

In order to accomplish that, you need web site performance monitoring and management technology that helps you to keep an eye on the technical performance, resolve issues, quickly, and correlate technical performance to your business performance via analytics and application intelligence.

AppDynamics offers a complete Application Intelligence platform to help you manage that balancing act. Let us know how we can help you, too.

Peter Kacandes

Peter Kacandes

Peter has over 16 years in the tech industry, focusing on mobile applications. He's worked for top tech companies including Actuate, Sony Ericsson, Adobe, and Sun Microsystems.