With a publishing history of more than 140 years, Nikkei is one of the most authoritative media businesses in Japan. Along with their print newspaper, they have over 450 million monthly visits to their digital properties. To provide a better user experience and accelerate their business on the web, Nikkei successfully launched a Progressive Web App (PWA) - https://r.nikkei.com - in November 2017. They’re now seeing amazing results from the new platform.
- 2X better Speed Index
- 14 seconds faster time-to-interactive
- 75% faster loading with prefetch
- 2.3X organic traffic
- 58% more conversions (subscriptions)
- 49% more daily active users
- 2X page views per session
Business overview #
Nikkei saw a rapid rise in mobile traffic to their legacy website as smartphones became the main point of entry to the web for many users. However, using Lighthouse, an auditing tool that scans a web page and gives recommendations on how to improve across multiple categories, they understood that their site wasn’t fully optimized for mobile across multiple areas and was very slow to load.
Their website was taking ~20 secs to become consistently interactive and averaged 10 seconds on the Speed Index. Knowing that 53% of mobile users will abandon an experience if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, Nikkei wanted to reduce their load time to provide a better experience and accelerate their business on the web.
The value of speed is indisputable, especially for financial news. We made speed one of our core metrics, and our customers have appreciated the change.
Taihei Shigemori, Manager, Digital Strategy
Nikkei achieved impressive performance gains. Their Lighthouse score soared from 23 to 82. Their time-to-interactive measurement improved by 14 seconds. Organic traffic, speed, conversion rate, and active daily users all rose as well.
The Nikkei front-end engineers have proved that great UX brings good business performance. We’re fully invested in continuing our journey of bringing a new level of quality to the web.
Hiroyuki Higashi. Product Manager, Nikkei
Best practices #
- Improve loading speed and interactivity by using modern web APIs, compression, and code optimization practices.
- Progressively enhance UX by adding PWA features such as offline support and Add to Home Screen.
- Build performance budgets into performance strategy.
Technical Deep Dive #
Speed matters #
Leveraging web APIs & best practices to speed loading #
Preload key requests #
Avoid multiple, costly round trips to any origin #
The website needed to load 3rd party resources for tracking, ads and many other use cases. They used
<link rel=preconnect> to pre-resolve DNS/TCP/SSL handshake and negotiation for these key 3rd party origins.
Dynamically prefetch the next page #
When they were confident that the user will navigate to a certain page, they didn’t just wait for the navigation to happen. Nikkei dynamically adds
<link rel=prefetch> to the
<head> and pre-fetches the next page before the user actually clicks the link. This enables instant page navigation.
Inline Critical-path CSS #
Reducing render blocking CSS is one of the best practices of speed loading. The website inlines all the critical CSS with 0 render blocking stylesheets. This optimization reduced first meaningful paint by more than 1 second.
Other best practices implemented #
- Compression: Gzip/Brotli all compressible resources using Fastly CDN
- Caching: Enable HTTP caching, edge side caching
- Image optimization: Use imgix for optimization and image format detection
- Lazy-load non-critical resources: Use intersection observer API to load below-the-fold fragments
- Have a web font-loading strategy: Prioritize the use of system font
- Optimize first meaningful paint: Render the content server side
- Bundle all the required scripts using a JS bundler (e.g., Webpack)
- Async load the bundled script, so that it doesn’t block the page rendering
- Attach the calculated ad banner to Shadow DOM (vs iframe)
- Progressively load ads on user scroll with Intersection Observer API
Progressively enhancing the website #
In addition to these basic optimizations, Nikkei leveraged Web App Manifest and service workers to make their website installable and even work offline. By using the cache-first strategy in their service worker, all core resources and top articles are stored in the Cache Storage and reused even in contingency situations such as a flaky or offline network, providing consistent, optimized performance.
Hack the Nikkei #
A traditional daily newspaper company with a history of 140+ years successfully accelerated its digitalization through the power of web and PWA. Nikkei’s front-end engineers proved that great UX delivers strong business performance. The company will continue its journey of bringing a new level of quality to the web.