Case Study: New Relic Helps 99designs Run at Peak Performance

99designs is the world’s largest and fastest growing crowdsourced design marketplace. Founded in 2008 by Mark Harbottle, Lachlan Donald and Paul Annesley, it connects designers from around the world with companies seeking quality, affordable design services. The company has 50 employees in its Melbourne and San Francisco offices, and has paid out over $30 Million to the design community in the last three years.

With a global customer base and a community of more than 140,000 designers, the 99designs site must be accessible 24/7. The company’s development team closely monitors page load performance times from a variety of countries to see measure how successfully the site serves its global audience.

As the size of its codebase, stack and development team grew, 99designs found it challenging to bring new products to market and maintain its site’s performance. Its team conducted periodic manual testing performance across its stack, including log analysis, benchmarking, and profiling of frequent hit pages. Unfortunately, the testing was extremely time consuming, which meant they could only do deep dives a few times each year. And by the time issues were identified, they were much more expensive and difficult to correct than they would have been at the time they were introduced.

99designs needed deep visibility into their performance issues. In mid-2011, their development team discovered New Relic. The tool offered a level of transparency into their stack that they had not been able to achieve using their current methods. It provided a window into server and in-browser behavior, and provided profiling information even to the level of slow database queries.

The company installed the New Relic PHP and RUM monitoring agents quickly, and found its interface intuitive and easy to use. The PHP agent covered the application layer of their site, responsible for serving content correctly, while the Javascript RUM instrumentation allowed them to shift their focus form basic server response time to real world performance issues. RUM supported a shift in development focus back towards changes most like to improve the user experience. It allowed the development team to measure the impact of the static assets delivered across its site, and identify and prioritize work that need to be done to improve the end user experience.

“We’re firmly focused on providing a good user experience, and this means it can be hard to justify time spent chasing difficult performance problems for uncertain gain,” said Lars Yencken, 99designs DevOps engineer. “The best feature of New Relic is that it brings many of these difficult problems into the ‘doable now’ range, making them easy enough to tackle so we can now simply get them done.”

As their experience with New Relic grows, the development team is finding that the product helps them prioritize their work, improve their productivity, and help them resolve thorny performance challenges. They view app server response time as the key indicator for overall server load and health. And the New Relic browser load time graph is now the key source of ground truth on how users are experiencing their site.

“In the seven months we’ve been running New Relic, we’ve certainly saved weeks of time debugging performance issues,” adds Yencken, “Today our team is more pro-active than ever in addressing these issues, which lets us spend more time doing what we love: making our product better.”

See the 99designs case studyfor more information on how New Relic helps the company run at peak performance.

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