Intelligently combining Javascript

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One debate that the guys on my team have been having revolves around the combination of Javascript and CSS files. There are two schools of thought. The keep them separate and the BFF - Big Fun File system. There are pro’s and cons to both… but as with everything, one particular way may not always be the best - we don’t always have to stay in extremes-land. Here are some thoughts. Feel free to weigh in.

Use a CDN

Remember, you can always use the CDN for your very familiar and shared libraries. (I think about this a lot.) And of course, if your CDN fails, you can always fall back locally. But when you do this, you’re generating another HTTP call which can slow down your site, right? I used to be somewhat against this idea, but with the proliferation of sites using the shared CDNs, we don’t actually have to issue that next HTTP. A lot of your visitors might actually have this cached right on their system now and don’t need to make that round trip.

Combine Intelligently

Think about this with the famous Pareto Principle again - and use the 80/20 rule. If the javascript is used on 80% of the pages or more, include it in one shared file. If a particularly heavy page has a lot of Javascript, and is only used that one time in that one page, it makes sense to put it in a separate file. After-all if it is that intense of a page, the extra little delay won’t be that bad. And if the visitor never visits that page, why would you have made them wait to download that code? Another way I combine code depends on the general userbase of my community. If say 80% are visitors who will never create accounts, but 20% do log in to a very AJAX rich interface, I’ll create a ‘user.js’ file that has all logged in functions instead.

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