eBay techies are working to make the site faster. Senthil Padmanabhan is a Vice President, Technical Fellow at eBay where he heads the front-end and user experience engineering across eBay’s marketplace. He took to the eBay corporate blog to publish an update on the performance of critical eBay flows across all platforms – iOS, Android, and Web in a post called “Speed By A Thousand Cuts.”
Much of it looks daunting for the non-techie, but one section jumped out at us having to do with how long it takes a search results page to load, and how Padmanabhan’s team seems to have figured out a way to make images load faster:
“Search images eager download – In the search results page, when a query is issued at a high level, two things happen. One is the recall/ranking step, where the most relevant items matching the query are returned.
“The second step is augmenting the recalled items with additional user-context related information such as shipping. Previously the search results were rendered only after both the steps were done. It is still the same now, but after the first step, we immediately send the first 10 item images to the browser in a chunk along with the header, so the downloads can start before the rest of the markup arrives.
“As a result, the images will now appear quicker. This change is rolled out globally for the web platform. The cut here is the download start time for search results images.”
The search results page is the most image-heavy page at eBay, according to the post, and Padmanabhan discussed other methods of optimizing images to speed load time for users.
But what about ads – do they slow down the site?
An interesting conversation took place on LinkedIn between Padmanabhan and Steve Lerner, who had been a Senior Member of Technical Staff at eBay between 2013 and 2017.
Lerner was curious about the impact of ads, asking, “How has advertising played a role in page time load changes?”
Padmanabhan responded, “3rd party ads are loaded after page load in an async fashion. They don’t impact the initial speed numbers. We are adding a new metric (TTI) to track impact of ads.”
That sounds encouraging – sellers would not want ads getting in the way of users’ search and browse experience.
He ended his eBay blog post by noting that optimization techniques vary from things that are very basic to a few that are advanced, “but it is the basic that is often overlooked.”
“2019 has indeed been a meaningful year for us, as we got a chance to deliver something of value to our customers, in this case, a faster experience,” he said, and he said to look for further performance improvements in 2020.