Best Practices

Realtime Components

When writing code for realtime features we have to keep a couple of things in mind:

  1. Do not overload the server with requests.
  2. It should feel realtime.

Thus, we must strike a balance between sending requests and the feeling of realtime. Use the following rules when creating realtime solutions.

  1. The server will tell you how much to poll by sending Poll-Interval in the header. Use that as your polling interval. This way it is easy for system administrators to change the polling rate. A Poll-Interval: -1 means you should disable polling, and this must be implemented.
  2. A response with HTTP status 4XX or 5XX should disable polling as well.
  3. Use a common library for polling.
  4. Poll on active tabs only. Please use Visibility.
  5. Use regular polling intervals, do not use backoff polling, or jitter, as the interval will be controlled by the server.
  6. The backend code will most likely be using etags. You do not and should not check for status 304 Not Modified. The browser will transform it for you.

Lazy Loading

To improve the time to first render we are using lazy loading for images. This works by setting the actual image source on the data-src attribute. After the HTML is rendered and JavaScript is loaded, the value of data-src will be moved to src automatically if the image is in the current viewport.

  • Prepare images in HTML for lazy loading by renaming the src attribute to data-src AND adding the class lazy
  • If you are using the Rails image_tag helper, all images will be lazy-loaded by default unless lazy: false is provided.

If you are asynchronously adding content which contains lazy images then you need to call the function gl.lazyLoader.searchLazyImages() which will search for lazy images and load them if needed. But in general it should be handled automatically through a MutationObserver in the lazy loading function.


Only animate opacity & transform properties. Other properties (such as top, left, margin, and padding) all cause Layout to be recalculated, which is much more expensive. For details on this, see "Styles that Affect Layout" in High Performance Animations.

If you do need to change layout (e.g. a sidebar that pushes main content over), prefer FLIP to change expensive properties once, and handle the actual animation with transforms.

Reducing Asset Footprint

Page-specific JavaScript

Certain pages may require the use of a third party library, such as d3 for the User Activity Calendar and Chart.js for the Graphs pages. These libraries increase the page size significantly, and impact load times due to bandwidth bottlenecks and the browser needing to parse more JavaScript.

In cases where libraries are only used on a few specific pages, we use "page-specific JavaScript" to prevent the main main.js file from becoming unnecessarily large.

Steps to split page-specific JavaScript from the main main.js:

  1. Create a directory for the specific page(s), e.g. graphs/.
  2. In that directory, create a namespace_bundle.js file, e.g. graphs_bundle.js.
  3. Add the new "bundle" file to the list of entry files in config/webpack.config.js.
    • For example: graphs: './graphs/graphs_bundle.js',.
  4. Move code reliant on these libraries into the graphs directory.
  5. In graphs_bundle.js add CommonJS require('./path_to_some_component.js'); statements to load any other files in this directory. Make sure to use relative urls.
  6. In the relevant views, add the scripts to the page with the following:
- content_for :page_specific_javascripts do
  = webpack_bundle_tag 'lib_chart'
  = webpack_bundle_tag 'graphs'

The above loads chart.js and graphs_bundle.js for this page only. chart.js is separated from the bundle file so it can be cached separately from the bundle and reused for other pages that also rely on the library. For an example, see this Haml file.

Code Splitting

TODO flesh out this section once webpack is ready for code-splitting

Minimizing page size

A smaller page size means the page loads faster (especially important on mobile and poor connections), the page is parsed more quickly by the browser, and less data is used for users with capped data plans.

General tips:

  • Don't add new fonts.
  • Prefer font formats with better compression, e.g. WOFF2 is better than WOFF, which is better than TTF.
  • Compress and minify assets wherever possible (For CSS/JS, Sprockets and webpack do this for us).
  • If some functionality can reasonably be achieved without adding extra libraries, avoid them.
  • Use page-specific JavaScript as described above to dynamically load libraries that are only needed on certain pages.
  • High Performance Animations

Additional Resources