The most challenging part of a web portal is the first-visit experience.On first visit, a new user gets a page that is set up with predefined widgets that are ready for furthe customization (see Figure).
The first visit to a web portal requires setting up the user account,creating pages, and populating with predefined widgets that user can further customize
During a first-time visit,the page does the following before the user sees it:
• Creates a new user account using a ASP.NET 2.0 membership provider
• Creates a new profile using a ASP.NET 2.0 profile provider
• Creates new pages for the user
• Creates default widgets on the first page
• Sets up widgets with default data, e.g., shows the weather in the user’s city by inferring the user’s location based on the IP address
• Renders the widgets and any associated client script
• Delivers the entire client framework to support the web portal functionality
The challenge here is to execute server-side tasks instantly so the server does not have a noticeable delay before it starts to deliver the page content to the browser.Once the response is delivered, the browser needs to download the Ajax framework,widget scripts, graphics, CSS, etc., which takes a long time.To give the user perceived fast speed, the server needs to deliver the content almost instantly and progressively download the rest while the user is looking at the content of the page.
At the same time, you need to ensure that providing all these features on the first visit does not slow down first-time loading of the page. Otherwise, the first visit experience will be slow and the user will lose interest in the site.It’s a big challenge to make the first visit as fast as possible for the user so she can use the site immediately without getting bored looking at the browser progress bar.
The following are some ideas on how you can avoid a slow first-visit experience:
• Send HTML of the page and scripts in parallel so that the user sees something is happening on the page while the scripts and pictures download in the background. This increases the site’s perceived speed.
• Download the scripts in multiple steps. First, download the core Ajax runtime and then render the UI. This way, the user sees that something is happening and does not become impatient.
• Start downloading the other scripts that add additional features once the widgets are rendered on the UI.For example, extenders can download after the content is rendered.
• Delay downloading scripts that aren’t immediately necessarily and download those at a later stage.Generally,users don’t use features like drag and drop right away, which allows you to delay scripts for dialog boxes, tool tips, and animations.
The browser takes about 200 to 400 ms to reach the server and come back to the browser to download a file. So, each script file can waste 200 to 400 ms, and if there are five scripts, then the application spends one second on each network roundtrip. Now, add the total download time for the files, and it could easily take 10 seconds for 5 large scripts. So, you need to seriously think about (and test) how to optimize script file size and reduce network roundtrips as much as possible.
Ideally, you should Script files that are essential for the web portal to be fully functional on first visit.
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Introducing Web Portals And Dropthings.com
Architecting The Web Portal And Widgets
Building The Web Layer Using Asp.net Ajax
Building The Data And Business Layers Using .net 3.5
Building Client-side Widgets
Optimizing Asp.net Ajax
Creating Asynchronous, Transactional, Cache-friendly Web Services
Improving Server-side Performance And Scalability
Improving Client-side Performance
Solving Common Deployment, Hosting, And Production Challenges
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