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Faster build times on Pages

February 23, 2023

We advertise that Pages, previously known as Federalist, can “securely deploy a website from your repository in minutes.” Getting your content on the web quickly, seeing fast previews, and even seeing errors early are all important to good maintenance of a website. But as sites become larger and more complex, this can be a difficult task. We’ve made two recent changes to Pages to make website deployment faster so you can focus on your code, design, and content.

Publishing improvements

Static site generators, like those frequently used with Pages, generate each website page in advance. We then copy each page to our hosting service so it can appear online. If we want to save time, we can choose to only copy the page if we can tell that it changed from the previous build.

Starting in late 2020, Pages was publishing every file individually. We did this because a new feature for adding headers prevented us from quickly comparing whether files had changed. This past October, we made a change to return to only publishing changed files if sites weren’t using the header feature.

Sites like, with over 20,000 files, had been taking seventeen minutes on each build! Now their production builds only update about one-third of the total files and have brought the build times down to seven or eight minutes (fresh preview builds still take about fourteen). Across our whole portfolio, production sites saw 25% faster builds, saving 1 minute 40 seconds on average.

Median Build Times (in minutes) for by Month was taking seventeen minutes to build on Pages with most of the time spent uploading new files. After the October release of publishing improvements, build times were reduced to about seven or eight minutes.

Median Build Times for by Month
June July August September October November December January February
Median build times in minutes 15.1 15.8 16.8 17.1 17.1 8.5 7.1 7.1 6.8

Source: internal Pages analytic data

Caching build dependencies

Sites were installing all required custom software dependencies on each build. This process commonly takes about two or three minutes. We replaced this step with a new, opt-out, caching strategy:

  • If your dependencies didn’t change from the previous build, we’ll re-download the prior package from a secure cache. This takes about fifteen seconds
  • If your dependencies did change, which doesn’t happen often, we’ll re-install them.
  • Because downloading dependencies from a cache can create some errors, we have an option to opt-out.

We just recently added this change, so we’re still waiting to see the full metrics on how it’s improved build time. But many sites using the popular Jekyll framework have seen their build time reduced by about three minutes. You can see the effect of both of these changes in our median build time since June of last year:

Median Build Times (in minutes) for Pages Sites by Month

Sites were taking about six minutes to build in mid-2022. Publishing improvements in October helped reduce the time by about two minutes. Caching improvements in January reduced the build time by about another minute.

Median Build Times for Pages Sites by Month
June July August September October November December January February
Median build times in minutes 5.2 5.9 5.5 5.7 5.6 4.5 3.5 3.3 2.7

Source: internal Pages analytic data

Please let us know if these new features have helped you out or you’d like to try Pages.

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