A Firefox plugin that ring-fences all Facebook activity to the facebook.com domain. Once you close that tab, this extension takes care of garbage collection, ensuring that Facebook tracking scripts don’t leak into any other browsing activities.
Friday, March 30th, 2018
Thursday, March 1st, 2018
We all know that adding a third-party script to your site is just asking for trouble. But Jake points out that adding a third-party anything to your site is a bad idea.
Trust no one.
Friday, January 19th, 2018
I wrote about Google Analytics yesterday. As usual, I syndicated the post to Ev’s blog, and I got an interesting response over there. Kelly Burgett set me straight on some of the finer details of how goals work, and finished with this thought:
You mention “delivering a performant, accessible, responsive, scalable website isn’t enough” as if it should be, and I have to disagree. It’s not enough for a business to simply have a great website if you are unable to understand performance of channel marketing, track user demographics and behavior on-site, and optimize your site/brand based on that data. I’ve seen a lot of ugly sites who have done exceptionally well in terms of ROI, simply because they are getting the data they need from the site in order make better business decisions. If your site cannot do that (ie. through data collection, often third party scripts), then your beautifully-designed site can only take you so far.
I don’t want to come across all old-man-yell-at-cloud here, but I’m trying to remember at what point self-hosted software for analysing your log traffic became not good enough.
Related: according to Google Analytics, 0% of your customers are using ad-blockers that block requests to Google’s servers. Again, that’s not necessarily a true fact.
So I completely agree than analytics are a good thing to have for your business. But it does not follow that Google Analytics is a good thing for your business. Other options are available.
In a word, no.
Thursday, January 18th, 2018
There’s nothing quite so crushing as building a beautifully performant website only to have it infested with a plague of third-party scripts that add to the weight of each page and reduce the responsiveness, making a mockery of your well-considered performance budget.
My latest realization is that delivering a performant, accessible, responsive, scalable website isn’t enough: I also need to consider the impact of third-party scripts.
He’s started the process by itemising third-party scripts. Frustratingly though, there’s rarely one single culprit that you can point to—it’s the cumulative effect of “just one more beacon” and “just one more analytics script” and “just one more A/B testing tool” that adds up to a crappy experience that warms your user’s hands by ensuring your site is constantly draining their battery.
Actually, having just said that there’s rarely one single culprit, Adobe Tag Manager is often at the root of third-party problems. That and adverts. It’s like opening the door of your beautifully curated dream home, and inviting a pack of diarrhetic elephants in: “Please, crap wherever you like.”
But even the more well-behaved third-party scripts can get out of hand. Google Analytics is so ubiquitous that it’s hardly even considered in the list of potentially harmful third-party scripts. On the whole, it’s a fairly well-behaved citizen of your site’s population of third-party scripts (y’know, leaving aside the whole surveillance capitalism business model that allows you to use such a useful tool for free in exchange for Google tracking your site’s visitors across the web and selling the insights from that data to advertisers).
The initial analytics script that you—asynchronously—load into your page isn’t very big. But depending on how you’ve configured your Google Analytics account, that might just be the start of a longer chain of downloads and event handlers.
As I understand it, there are two main categories of goals: events and destinations (there are also durations and pages, but they feel similar to destinations). You use events to answer questions like “Did the user click on this button?” or “Did the user click on that search field?”. You use destinations to answer questions like “Did the user arrive at this page?” or “Did the user come from that page?”
So I have a hypothesis. I think that destination-based goals are less harmful to performance than event-based goals. I might well be wrong about that, and if I am, please let me know.
With that hypothesis in mind, and until I learn otherwise, I’ve got two rules of thumb to offer when it comes to using Google Analytics:
- Try to keep the number of goals to a minimum.
- If you must create a goal, favour destinations over events.
Friday, January 12th, 2018
Third-party scripts are probably the #1 cause of poor performance and bad UX on the web.
Tuesday, April 25th, 2017
If you’re using Disqus to power the comments on your blog, you might like to know that it’s pulling on loads of nasty tracking scripts. Bad for privacy and bad for performance.
Thursday, April 13th, 2017
Digital Assistants, Facebook Quizzes, And Fake News! You Won’t Believe What Happens Next | Laura Kalbag
A great presentation from Laura on how tracking scripts are killing the web. We can point our fingers at advertising companies to blame for this, but it’s still developers like us who put those scripts onto websites.
We need to ask ourselves these questions about what we build. Because we are the gatekeepers of what we create. We don’t have to add tracking to everything, it’s already gotten out of our control.
Saturday, March 18th, 2017
Monday, August 29th, 2016
Monday, May 30th, 2016
Here’s a handy directory of scripts that set out to solve one problem without any dependencies. Useful for poking at, picking apart, and learning from.
Friday, April 15th, 2016
A step-by-step walkthrough of how GitHub has tweaked its Content Security Policy over time. There are some valuable insights here, and I’m really, really happy to see companies share this kind of information.
Monday, June 10th, 2013
A terrific quiz about browser performance from Jake. I had the pleasure of watching him present this in a bar in Amsterdam—he was like a circus carny hoodwinking the assembled geeks.
I guarantee you won’t get all of this right, and that’s a good thing: you’ll learn something. If you do get them all right, either you are Jake or you are very, very sad.
Thursday, June 6th, 2013
Jake casts a scrutinising eye over the way that browsers load and parse scripts …and looks at what we can do about it.
Monday, May 21st, 2012
I really like this trend of small standalone scripts rather than plug-ins that require the presence of a library.
Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
A fascinating look at hypertext in illuminated manuscripts.
Sunday, March 4th, 2007
A collection of scripts. There might be some good stuff here but use with care and discretion.