Google hackathon yields 600% increase in ZapLabs’ mobile site page load speed

Chris Ong Aug 9, 2018 • 3 min read

In January 2018, ZapLabs was invited to participate in a hackathon at Google’s campus in San Francisco. For those unfamiliar with hackathons, these events essentially convene a large number of people to engage in collaborative computer programming. Teams from small start-ups to Silicon Valley giants gathered to compete in the one-day event.

The focus of our hackathon was on Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), with the goal of improving mobile website speed in order to drive more traffic and a better user experience. It’s been shown that reducing site load time to under three seconds can reduce a site’s bounce rate by 50%. Ultimately, improved mobile website speed will improve a site’s ranking in Google searches, since in July of this year, Google will release an update that prioritizes mobile site load time in its ranking algorithm.

“Reducing site load time to under three seconds can reduce a site’s bounce rate by 50%”

Our team had the chance to leverage Google’s Engineering department resources before, during and after the hackathon to build a proof of concept that could benefit diverse parties ranging from Engineering, Design, SEM/SEO, to real estate professionals and of course our consumers—home buyers and sellers! Our goal wasn’t to win the hackathon, but rather to push beyond our boundaries to create something new, exciting and useful to all parties. With only three weeks to plan our strategy and just one day at Google to build, we needed to set realistic goals.

Ultimately, we decided to build a new AMP page for our search engine results pages (pages with home listings). With less features and code like Java, AMP pages are streamlined to load incredibly quickly compared to traditional HTML pages. Since search engine results pages are the most popular entry point into our consumer sites, the potential to see spikes in traffic as a result of reduced page load time was widely appealing. Our design and product team did a ton of prep work to get our engineers in tip-top shape at the hackathon, so they could focus on just coding that day.

The result was nothing short of FABULOUS! First, the team came back excited and proud.  They had a chance to work with Google staff, compete against some of the most talented people in the industry and of course, eat lunch at Google. Second, and most importantly, the page load time for the new AMP page was 1 second, a 600% improvement from the previous non-AMP load time of 6 seconds. When tested in Google’s Lighthouse Speed Test, our Lighthouse score improved from  65 to 95; for context, a score of 80 is generally considered good, while anything beneath that requires optimization.

“Page load time for the new AMP page was 1 second, a 600% improvement from the previous non-AMP load time of 6 seconds”

I’d like to send a huge shout out to the selflessness and focus displayed by each team member, especially members that worked remotely because of limited space at the contest. The AMP concept was the brainchild of lead front-end developer Aaron Hans; he was supported on-site at Google by Peik Sia, Sui Mak & Alex Hill. Our remote team of product managers and designers included Michele Weiner, Christine Chun, Willem Jager, Dario Navarro, Ryan Lee, Saurabh Mallik, Joe Ngo & Chris Ong.

Chris Ong

As SEM Manager at ZapLabs, Chris helps create best-in-class digital marketing campaigns for brokers from five of the largest real estate brands in the country. He also works with partners like Google to leverage the best business intelligence and technology to achieve business goals.