In Praise of DigiCert

As I’ve mentioned before, if you develop web sites for a living and haven’t read High Performance Web Sites yet you should be ashamed of yourself. The book’s title unfortunately includes the words “Front-End Engineers” in it, which will cause it to be tuned out by many back-end developers. That’s a mistake on their part. The book does contain information on best practices to improve the experience of a visitor to your site, but many of these solutions require the active participation of backend developers. Other solutions are just important for backend developers to be aware of.

Around the same time the book was released the fellows at Yahoo released the Yahoo Y Slow Plugin for Firefox. It requires the Firebug plugin, which all serious web developers should have installed anyway. The plugin will give you a grade on your compliance with the rules – 0 to 100, just like grade school.

My goal is to have each page in my site score at least 90 in the Y Slow rankings (again, just like grade school). This isn’t terribly hard to do if you’re disciplined. I run a Y Slow check on my pages infrequently to verify that I’m maintaining that goal. So I was a little ticked to see the home page of take a hit when I decided to show the DigiCert badge I purchased (see related post here).

The issue was that 2 images included by DigiCert’s JavaScript. Y Slow was complaining that neither had a far futures expires header or ETags configured. That left my score south of 90, so I decided I’d fire off an email to DigiCert customer support asking if there was any way I could convince them to fix it on their side. I wasn’t expecting much, but figured I should give it a shot anyway. That was at 1am Sunday morning.

Around 11am that same morning I got a response from the CTO of DigiCert, Paul Tiemann. Cool fact #1 – the CTO of DigiCert is scanning customer service emails at 11am on Sunday. Seriously.

He profusely thanked me for noticing this and suggesting it to them. Cool fact #2 – the CTO of DigiCert was willing accept suggestions for improving their service from one of their clients. Seriously.

He got it immediately. As he pointed out, following Y Slow rules not only help visitors to my site, it also reduced bandwidth costs for DigiCert. So he had reconfigured the servers to address the issue. Cool fact #3 – the CTO of DigiCert is still close enough to technology to know how to configure ETags and expires headers on the production servers. Seriously.

I told him that I ran the site back through Y Slow and the news was good. I was back above a grade of 90. And, thanks to this tremendous example of a good business run by good people, I’m a proud DigiCert customer for life.

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