What Content Management System (CMS) should you choose to guarantee the optimum load time for your website’s pages? Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Prestashop, WooCommerce, Magento, WordPress, Hybris, or a home-made platform... Looking beyond what each promises to bring, is there such a thing as the perfect CMS when it comes to speed?

In search of the perfect CMS

Whatever you choose, a CMS isn’t entirely responsible for web performance. Why? Simply because it all depends on how it’s configured and implemented.

So, let’s get down to the essentials: no, the “perfect” CMS – one that guarantees a speedy site under all circumstances – doesn’t exist. It’s no more real than the wild haggis or the tooth fairy.

In terms of design, a website can be represented schematically as the combination of three layers:

  • templates (generally provided by the CMS or the IT department)
  • content (images, text, etc., generally provided by webmasters, UI designers, content managers, etc.)
  • marketing tools (trackers, dynamic content and other third-party tools).

In a perfect world, here’s what would happen: ultra-optimized templates would be automated, as would all content (images compressed and resized, etc.), and third-party tools would be integrated sparingly. In this ideal world, everything would be nicely implemented end-to-end from the creation of templates right through to third-party applications.

But this perfect world doesn’t exist, and in practice, even with the best-designed templates in the world, each piece of content – dynamic or static – that is added to the site slows down the entire thing, sometimes critically affecting loading times. A radical solution would involve “forcing” the optimization of all content and third-party apps added to a site, but the CMS solutions on the market don’t work like that.

This means that IT teams generally only have control over the first third of the diagram above: templates. And however optimized they might be, they are only partly responsible for performance. Only a solution that optimizes the entire site automatically and on an industrial scale can cover the entire spectrum, as well as lighten the load for technical teams.

To be comprehensive, we need to take a look at AMP. Strictly speaking, this isn’t a CMS but its format is so restrictive that pages are stripped back to the bone out of necessity.

AMP FORMAT

Among the most widely compatible webperf approaches, the AMP format – which emerged a few years ago – results in a Speed Index increase of 15% to 85% compared to a normal page. It’s difficult to improve on that because the format reduces pages to their bare essentials, like Wikipedia pages: text, a few images – it keeps it simple. Except that in practice, this solution is hard to apply to an entire e-commerce site, for example.

So is there a miracle solution? Unfortunately not.

Webperf remains a difficult area and you won’t find the solution in a CMS, or in a redesign, or growing on trees.

A few common observations from our webperf experts

Here are a few practical observations that can help you if your CMS isn’t following through on its promises and performance is less than expected:

  • Plugins or extensions: to get the most out of a CMS, the temptation to install plugins to benefit from this or that feature can be overwhelming – but they inevitably result in slow speeds.
  • Font management: having your fonts loaded on an external server isn’t the best solution when you consider the fact that every additional request has an impact on loading times (DNS + TCP connection + TLS connection). And when it comes to fonts, we offer a series of features to optimize their load times.
  • Third-party apps: these are essential if you want to collect data, offer content, improve the user experience, and much more. According to a study we carried out in 2016, a site had on average 21 third-party tools per page, and since then we’ve seen that figure increase significantly. Because their presence can slow down page display, managing their implementation is also a crucial challenge when it comes to webperf.

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