How to turn a tank into a sports car: one school's web performance journey so far

General lecture


Penn State World Campus's large web site was created over many years by many different contributors, with front end web performance as a secondary consideration (at best). The challenge to improve its less-than-stellar performance was daunting: What metrics to use? How to set a performance budget? How to convince stakeholders this work is important? How to get visibility into the impacts of changes? How to avoid backsliding? And last but not least... which changes will make a real difference and which will not?

In this session you'll learn about how we tackled a challenging performance problem one piece at a time, and gain ideas for how your school might do the same to offer a better user experience. Takeaways include:

  • Understanding common performance metrics
  • How to set goal metrics and a performance budget
  • Communicating with stakeholders — translating performance into user experience, business goals, SEO, and competitive brand experience terms
  • Performance measurement and monitoring techniques and tools
  • Operationalizing performance: integrating performance tests into developer and QA workflow
  • How we identified and fixed major performance blockers in an agile, iterative way, with tips on how you can do the same

Session topics



  • Matt Ryan

    UI/UX Designer, Penn State

    Matt Ryan works as the UI/UX designer for Penn State's Outreach and Online Education web strategy team. He's worked on higher ed websites for over 20 years and has the grey hairs to prove it. He's presented at many regional and national conferences on design and user experience topics.

  • Luke Leber

    Programmer/Analyst III, The Pennsylvania State University

    My name is Luke Leber.I am a strong proponent of open source, web accessibility, and security. I believe that elegance can be achieved through simplicity, that a unified strategy forms the most durable foundation for any project, and that open collaboration serves as the most effective way to harden...