Name That Script! by Trent Walton

  • A/B testing,
  • analytics,
  • social media,
  • content delivery networks,
  • customer interaction,
  • comments,
  • tag managers,
  • fonts.

UX, performance and privacy impact

We feel the UX impact every day we browse the web (if we turn off our content blockers). The Food Network site has an intersitial asking you to disable your ad blocker. They promise they won’t spawn any pop-up windows. Trent turned his ad blocker off — the page was now 15 megabytes in size. And to top it off …he got a pop up.

Categories of third parties

Ghostery categories third-party providers: advertising, comments, customer interaction, essential, site analytics, social media. You can dive into each layer and see the specific third-party services on the page you’re viewing.

Analyse and itemise third-party scripts

We have “view source” for learning web development. For third parties, you need some tool to export the data. HAR files (HTTP ARchive) are JSON files that you can create from most browsers’ network request panel in dev tools. But what do you do with a .har file? The site har.tech has plenty of resources for you. That’s where Trent found the Mac app, Charles. It can open .har files. Best of all, you can export to CSV so you can share spreadsheets of the data.

Know industry averages

Trent wanted to know what was “normal.” He decided to analyse HAR files for Alexa’s top 50 US websites. The result was a massive spreadsheet of third-party providers. There were 213 third-party domains (which is not even the same as the number of requests). There was an average of 22 unique third-party domains per site. The usual suspects were everywhere — Google, Amazon, Facebook, Adobe — but there were many others. You can find an alphabetical index on better.fyi/trackers. Often the lesser-known domains turn out to be owned by the bigger domains.

Understand benefits

Trent realised he needed to listen and understand why third-party scripts are being included. He found out what tag managers do. They’re funnels that allow you to cram even more third-party scripts onto your website. Trent worried that this was a Pandora’s box. The tag manager interface is easy to access and use. But he was told that it’s more like a way of organising your third-party scripts under one dashboard. But still, if you get too focused on the dashboard, you could lose focus of the impact on load times. So don’t blame the tool: it’s all about how it’s used.

Take action

Establish a centre of excellence. Put standards in place — in a cross-discipline way — to define how third-party scripts are evaluated. For example:

  1. Avoid redundant scripts and services.
  2. Fit within the established performance budget.
  3. Comply with the organistional privacy policy.

Make your case

Do competitive analysis. Look at other sites in your sector. It’s a compelling way to make a case for change. WPO Stats is very handy for anecdata.

Talk it out

Work to maintain an ongoing discussion with the entire team. As Tim Kadlec says:

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Jeremy Keith

Jeremy Keith

A web developer and author living and working in Brighton, England. Everything I post on Medium is a copy — the originals are on my own website, adactio.com