Case Study

Homebase

Homebase provides a unique solution to an often overlooked market. They’ve created a free time management and employee scheduling platform that gives small, family-owned businesses the tools they need to succeed.

Now more than ever, this demographic needs support from their vendors, and Homebase has stepped up by adding a variety of services to their platform to help. From health tracking to content dedicated to helping small businesses grow, Homebase is an excellent example of what a SaaS company can do to help its customers through uncertain times.

The Need for Speed

But this story starts long before that. It begins with Homebase learning more about their customer base and its habits. The time tracking and scheduling market is extremely competitive. In order to grow, the Homebase team knew they would need to be as close to the top spot on search engines as possible if they wanted to succeed.

Secondly, the team was aware that a majority of their customers were still using older devices. If a site was bogged down with unnecessary or under-optimized code, it could make it difficult for customers to access their service. 

“We noticed that a lot of our customers were still using iPhone fours or fives to access our site. Their Internet connections were slower compared to big businesses.”

Ryan Milligan, Head of Customer Acquisition, Homebase

Being a “freemium” platform, Homebase grows with businesses as they need more features and users. While a business might not have the latest devices, they deserve the robust platform of Homebase.

In order to improve customers’ access to their website, the Homebase team knew that it would need to be optimized to near perfection. Their internal writers and developers could optimize for keywords and content, but to optimize for website performance is a whole other story. As a small business, their team had a lot of different projects running at once. There were so many priorities that the team couldn’t give website performance the attention it deserved. 

As Homebase began the search for a team to work on their website performance, they were immediately impressed by our work. Three things drew Ryan and his team to choose us for the project. 

  • An impressive list of clientele,
  • Experience with top-tier websites, and
  • Our dedication to the process.

In fact, we began working on the project even before we signed the contract. During the initial exploratory call, Mike Crantea, one of our expert engineers, began poking around in the site’s source code after the Homebase team mentioned a particular issue with pages taking upwards of four seconds to load. 

“The way their particular A/B testing library was set up was that after the script loaded, it would wait a full four seconds before the content would begin to load. This Javascript issue wasn’t anything that the Homebase team had done, it’s just how the library worked. I decided to create a custom line of CSS to see if it would help, and there was a huge change. The pages began loading almost instantly.”

Mike Crantea, Principal Engineer, XWP

Let’s Get to Work

After being selected for the project, we got to work developing a plan of action on how to improve their site performance as quickly and efficiently as possible. First, our team ran a Google Page Speed Insight test on the Homebase site to see where we were starting out.

The XWP team developed a comprehensive plan and proposed it to the Homebase team. 

It was refreshing to see such a clear, well-laid-out plan for when things were going to be done, how things were going to be done, and what the results were going to be.

Ryan Milligan

Our goal after two weeks of optimizations were: 

  • GPSI Mobile Scores of 90+
  • First Meaningful Paint of <1.5s
  • Time to interactive of <5s

To achieve these lofty goals, the XWP team performed a variety of work including: 

  • Deferring jQuery and more efficiently loading the styles by minimizing the render blocking files.
  • Typography optimizations: Avoiding flash of invisible or unstyled text and reducing the amount of icons included inside libraries.
  • Reducing or removing unnecessary script timeout/delay. 
  • Inline loading of Critical CSS.
  • ZD chat script: Optimize by only loading when needed, rather than across all pages.

Impressive Results

The results of our optimizations were spot on our initial estimates, and in some cases, even surpassed them.

Don’t just take our word for it. The page speed improvements played out in terms of actual user experience, too.

After finishing our work on Homebase.com in December of 2019, almost 30% more users had a fast onload experience than the previous month, and almost 35% of users had a fast onload experience the month after that.

When it comes to first contentful paint, the results were also impressive. In January 2020, the amount of users receiving a ‘fast’ first contentful paint, according to Google PageSpeed Insights, had risen 10% from before the work was completed.

DOM Content Loaded is the point in a website’s loading where HTML that makes up a page has completely loaded, but not the styles or images. This measurement is useful because it means that a render tree can be built. Put plainly, a faster DOM content load means a faster loading website. Month over month, our improvements increased Homebase’s DOM content load time an average of ~13.5%.

With both lab data improvements of almost 50 points in GPSI scores, plus the real-world user data from CrUX to back up the work, we were happy to see the huge impact that our work had for Homebase and their audience.

XWP walked us through everything they were going to do to our site. We knew what we were going to get because of transparency in expectations, outcomes, and cost.

Ryan Milligan

What’s Next for Homebase?

XWP’s performance work on Homebase’s website opened the team’s mind to a whole new world of development: performance optimization. 

As Homebase continues to operate as a SaaS company in the post-COVID-19 world, they have been developing a variety of new offerings to make their service appealing to new customers. By keeping site performance front of mind, and by actively continuing to improve their site performance, Homebase’s search rankings continue to grow along with their customer base.

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