After some further thinking, following our previous article on cool tools, we thought of a few other that we also like.
There’s a little bit of numbers, and a little bit of “why is my site slow?”
New Relic is a tool that’s been around for a few years, it started out being developed for the Rails platform and then grew out from there. In short, it tells you why your site is slow and how to fix it.
New Relic embeds into your webapp to gather performance data for aggregation and presentation. This is an absolute killer because it gives you pretty graphs that instantly identify which parts of the stack are performing poorly. That’s hard evidence you can act on straight away, instead of guessing where the problem lies and trying to fix it.
Usually it’s devs who add New Relic to their app, but we’ve set it up for a couple of customers who didn’t already know about it. Learn it and use it, it’s another great way to curry favour.
Google has pretty much cornered the market when it comes to website stats. We still have a few customers that are used to older webserver-based packages like AWstats and Webalizer, but we’d heavily encourage everyone to just use Analytics. The graphs are so much shinier, are effectively realtime, and let you slice and dice the data to produce reports. That’s something that regular packages can’t possibly offer.
Firebug and browser dev toolbars
The Firebug plugin, and similar functionality now built into Firefox and Chrome, lets you poke around on live pages and tweak the content and styles, and introspect the scripting engine.
Doing web development can be a pain at the best of times. It’s not what we do here at Anchor, but our sysadmins know plenty about it. Cross-browser compatibility will probably be a bugbear for an eternity, meaning that testing your stuff everywhere is unavoidable.
BrowserShots aims to take the pain out of that, at least insofar as page rendering goes. You pass in your URL, and it loads the page in dozens of different browsers and versions, giving you a screenshot of each one. It’s not realtime, but it does let you validate that your overall design is working.
For support staff it can be a useful way to see what the customer is seeing – it’s hard to diagnose a complaint that your forms aren’t working, when they’re using IE7 on WinXP, and all you’ve got is a linux desktop.
Our last one: WebPageTest is a bit like a mix of Are You Still There? and BrowserShots. It loads your site from a single location in a real browser to test how long it takes to load, then reports on what it sees.
What makes WebPageTest special is the degree of control over the test environment. As well as a selection of locations, you can simulate a particular connection type and speed, and the specific browser and version to use for testing.
If you’ve ever seen the handy “waterfall view” of page components loading this’ll be familiar, just that you’re using someone else’s browser instead of your own.
And that’s it! Got any favourites of your own that you reckon deserve a mention? Hit us up in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.