What to Consider When Hiring a Web Performance Consultant

If you’re considering supplementing your in-house team to improve web performance, or wondering if you’re ready to hire a web performance consultant, read on for a variety of factors to consider.

Taryn Hardes
Technology contributor
February 1, 2022

So you’re considering hiring a web performance consultant.

Your site speed is likely lagging. You may be noticing an increase in shopping cart abandonment or low ecommerce conversion rate. Maybe you’re worried no one on your team is “on top” of web performance.

To be frank: They probably aren’t.

If you’re considering supplementing your in-house team to improve web performance, or wondering if you’re ready to hire a web performance consultant, read on for a variety of factors to consider.

We like to categorize these considerations into three buckets: People, Process, and Product. Let’s dig in to see if a web performance consultant, or maybe an organization like SpeedSpeed, is right for you.

SpeedSense is more than a web performance consultancy. We're a fractional web performance department—providing the methodology and expertise to improve your web performance.

1. People


Assessing skill sets

Consider if you’ve already got the necessary skill sets in-house

A wide range of skills and roles are necessary to begin to tackle improving site speed. Roles like:

  • Analytics
  • Project Manager, Product Manager, Product Owner
  • Developers and/or Architects
  • Ecommerce Operations
  • QA and Automation
  • DevOps and Infrastructure
  • Tag Manager and/or Technical Marketing Ops

Expect to need bandwidth from every one of these roles and more.

Bringing on an individual web performance consultant without the supporting resources to run a project may not move the needle. Think of it as spinning up a speed squad, or a fractional web performance department.

Mindset

Consider the culture around web performance at your company

We say it all the time—web performance is a program, not a project. Some may disagree, but your competition and customers aren’t waiting around. You’ll need the internal buy-in to invest in this type of program. Are the necessary stakeholders on board with prioritizing web performance? Do people see web performance as a bug to be squashed, or a lever to drive growth and profit?

With motivation,  there’s a huge opportunity to embark on a web performance project.

Expectations

Consider the outcomes your various teams would have in mind

This is where you can step back, consider your key goals, and establish if improving site speed aligns with those goals.

It’s a fit if:

  • Conversion improvement is a key goal for your organization
  • A slow website is causing lost revenue on a daily basis
  • Your customers are complaining of a laggy UX
  • You are in a growth phase, driving traffic via SEO, Ads, email, and social

Then, consider timelines: how long are stakeholders willing to work on this before there are web performance improvements? Is this a sprint or a quarter?

If you lack the in-house expertise but are aligned internally on a long-term web performance strategy, then external oversight could be a great choice. Keep reading.

2. Process


Prioritization

Consider the software development lifecycle in place

How many stale tickets tagged as “Perf” do you have in your issue tracker right now?

We’ll wait.

Dumping tickets in a backlog to die doesn’t make a website faster. If that were the case, there’d be no such thing as technical debt.

Building software goes far beyond tickets, but consider if the right people are empowered to capture requirements, define success, and measure impact. Consider if there’s bandwidth available on the appropriate teams. And essentially, is there a system for prioritizing web performance tickets to keep to timelines?

At SpeedSense, we aim to design ourselves out by building up your internal processes.

Validation

Consider the mechanisms and tooling in place in your organization

When you make changes to your site, is your QA team able to validate that a change was the right change?  Do they know which metrics to verify, and what those mean?

Is the code you’re about to deploy faster or slower than what’s live on the site? What’s the expected improvement, engagement, revenue lift?

It’s essential to measure the impacts of changes to ensure you’re on the right track. Taking the time to collect and understand this data pays huge dividends.

Reporting

Consider the measurement capabilities that are in place

You cannot make progress on web performance without being able to measure site speed. Here are a few considerations:

  • What is the current speed of the website?
  • What does success look like compared to competitors?
  • What measurement tools are in place to measure web performance improvement?
  • How quickly can you see the impact? Weeks? Hours? Seconds?
  • What is the ROI of your web performance program?

To sum up benchmarking, “How fast is fast enough?” That is; how much faster does your site need to be to lead your industry and beat your competitors? We explore this further in our Site Speed Audit service.

There’s more to running a web performance program than putting tasks into a sprint. If you lack maturity around prioritization, tooling, and measurement, then you need this in your external web performance consultant.

3. Product


Scale

Consider if your brand is big enough to see an impact

A large-scale web performance project isn’t right for small-to-medium sized businesses. Mom-and-Pop selling $50k per year online are much better off investing elsewhere.

Your traffic and revenue need to be high enough to see a positive ROI on this type of project. Generally, we recommend  a minimum $5M in annual revenue. Conversely, when brands reach over $1B in revenue—they likely have the required skill sets and processes in-house, which renders a consultant unnecessary.

The sweet spot in our experience is for challenger brands who compete with the behemoths.

Data

Consider if you’ve got the real and synthetic data required

If you’re tracking Core Web Vitals, that’s a great start. Unfortunately, it has a significant lag, when you may need real-time intelligence.

You’ll also need synthetic data to properly test new versions of your site. You need a plan for data from in the lab, as well as in the wild, and how to use this data in your web performance program.

Infrastructure

Consider whether your stack is up to task

Do you have intel on the root cause of your web performance woes? Do you know if it’s a front end or back end problem? Is there a slow third-party API? And once the issues are identified, are you ready to invest in fixing the problem if it’s your caching, servers, tools for marketing, or integrations?

Consider what is up for discussion or for adjustments in your organization: Software, hardware, APIs, front-end, back-end, network. Are there untouchable elements, or is it all fair game?

Tooling

Consider the long-term impacts of undertaking web performance

Look at your tooling. Do you have monitoring, continuous integration and deployment systems? Are you prepared to take the necessary steps to build performance into your build process going forward? Great gains can be protected by building a Performance Budget into your build process.

If your site is generating significant revenue and you are committed to improving performance, external help could accelerate your growth. It’s okay if you don’t have all the data, infrastructure, and tooling in place—the right expert will help with that.

Bringing web performance online

Every organization is different, and every web performance program is unique.  We have outlined a number of facets to consider, and we hope we have helped illuminate some of the complexity that can catch teams off-guard when looking to bring on site speed help.

At SpeedSense, we share our system and build a partnership to act as an extension of your team. We’ve worked with clients at all different stages of their own web performance journey. We offer a customized plan and a solution regardless of where your organization is at—get in touch to discuss.

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