I got a digital subscription to the Economist for my birthday last month so I’ve started reading a lot more content on their site. As a result I’ve noticed a lot of weirdness with their page loads that was hardly noticeable when I was using the free tier of a few articles per week.
The site seems to be built as a SPA with a page shell that loads quite quickly but takes far longer to fill with content and which has some odd layout choices and occasional pops and content shifts.
The basic navigation between the current issue index and the articles is hampered by what appears to be a slow load or render phase. Essentially it is hard to know whether the click on a link or the back button has registered.
By replacing traditional page navigation the experience is actually worse. The site would be better if the effort going into the frontend went into faster page serving.
I’m not sure if the page is meant to be doing something clever with local storage for offline use but it seems to need to be connected when browsing so I’m assuming that this is something to do with the need for a subscription and payment gateway that prevents a fast server load of content.
It still feels as if the page and the 200 words or so should be public and CDN-cached with the remaining content of the article being loaded after page-load for subscribers.
The current solution feels like someone has put a lot of effort and thought into making someone that is actually worse than a conventional webpage and that seems a shame for a site with relatively little content that is mostly updated once a week.