Javascript Optimization Tricks

Profiling, Profiling, Profiling

This seems obvious, but still merits a mention. Don’t optimize your code before profiling it. If you need a profiler, just use firebug’s. Having tests to make sure that your post-profiling code is equivalent to the original is also nice.

Later is better than now

As is well known, it is usually useful to have some of the page content to be fetched in the original http get, but have non-essential content fetched using ajax after page-load.

In some cases, user interaction with your website does not require fetching new content, but doing some processing. Generating html is especially slow. In that case, the user will have to wait until the processing is done. Unless of course, you can also ‘postpone it for later’: simply use setTimeout to do the work outside of the even handler.
For example, I used Bill Chadwick’s ArrowLine, which redraws on zoom-in/out. Since the redraw isn’t quick, this makes zooming in pretty slow, especially when quickly zooming more than once.
My solution: since what takes time is drawing the arrows themselves, I put arrow drawing code in a timeout callback, which means the interface doesn’t get unresponsive.

(Of course, this might misbehave, and I had to make sure my code still works if multiple timeouts are enqueued, etc..)

A single div is all you need!

I had to write a dropdown widget for UI, one which could show arbitrary html inside the dropdown box. Problem is, I had to to have a lot of similar dropdowns. This in itself is pretty easy, as we all know how to use a for-loop.
It gets complicated when you find out that adding these dropdowns takes a lot of time. What’s worse, the part that takes time is adding the div that gets displayed when you show it, but is otherwise hidden.

To solve this, first you may apply “Later is better than now”, and create each dropdown only when it’s needed. This will work. In some cases, a different approach is warranted: all of these dropdowns share the same design of the ‘dropdown div’, and only one of these divs will be shown at any time (I had to write code to make sure of it). So, instead of making a new drop-down div for each dropdown, create just one, and let them share it. This might complicate your code, but the rewards may be great.

To make it work, you may use an object factory, or a function that creates widget classes, or any other pattern that works for you.

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2 Responses to Javascript Optimization Tricks

  1. yuval says:

    Did any code become of this?

  2. lorg says:

    Of course. I wrote this based on my experience.
    For example, making sure the arrow polyline works when multiple timeouts are enqueued is a real issue I had to solve.