Case Study: Napier University Performance Tune-up

Back in spring 2016 we got a call from Napier University, who were having some performance issues with their recently launched site.

The client had enlisted  NCC Group to run a site performance review, and the results demonstrated room for improvement, with the homepage taking over 3 seconds (3.19) to start rendering, and over 8 seconds (8.34) to load completely, with other key pages in the site taking even longer to load.

The site was built using Sitecore 8, and was hosted on a set of very capable web servers, so there was no obvious reason for this lack of performance.


When we arrived on site, the first action we took was to review the entire solution. From the sites hosting environment and Sitecore configuration, right down to a full code review of every line of code.

Once this was complete we had a clear list of what needed to be addressed to get this site flying.

So we broke out the tools, and got to work…


Firstly, the Sitecore cache had not been configured, it was left with the out of the box settings. We set a baseline, then over the next few days we monitored the cache usage across the content delivery (CD) servers and adjusted the cache settings accordingly.

This helped to an extent, but the Sitecore cache can’t cure a site of un-optimised code, so we started to delve into the code left behind by the Sitecore Gold partner who had built the site.

During our review, we highlighted some areas that needed attention, these included redundant code, inefficient global functions, SQL locking code which made all requests wait for a number of seconds, and one of the bigger ones was on every page load a global site search, for an empty string, was being performed, for no apparent reason.

We were tasked by the client to clean up the code base, fix all the issue we had highlighted, and provide guidance and training for their internal team of developer, who were very experienced, just not with Sitecore.

Over the next few weeks, we re-engineered large sections of the site, cleaned up all the problem areas we had highlighted, and some other issues we had found along the way, reworked caching across the site, both server side and client browser caching.

And the results….


Page TTFB (from server in Paris) Render start Document complete
Homepage <400ms 1.2s (62% faster) 1.9s (78% faster)
Content page <90ms 0.8s (74% faster) 1.5s (82% faster)

We were rather pleased with the results, and the client was over the moon, they now had the site they had been promised.

If you have a site that isn’t performing as well as you would like, get in touch, and we can give it a tune up, or a complete engine rebuild.