HTML and CSS performance

Efficient, reusable markup reduces development work while boosting page load time

[Ed note: This is the third in a series of posts on web design and performance. You can see the first two posts here and here.]

Optimizing your markup can have a substantial impact on your site’s page load time. Bloated HTML leads to bloated CSS, and vice-versa. For example, during a semantics and reusability template cleanup, I was able to significantly reduce the file size of site-wide HTML, CSS, and stylesheet images.

site-cleanup

I achieved this by simply renaming existing elements to have more semantic meaning and then removed unnecessary elements in the HTML (also known as divitis) to focus on reusability. Later in the same cleanup effort, I was able to cut CSS by 39% by removing unused selectors, combining and condensing styles, and normalizing the colors used across the site.

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Web performance is user experience

Efforts to optimize your site have an effect on the entire experience for your users

Think about how you search for things on the web. How quick are you to close a tab and go to the next search engine result if a site takes too long to load? Now consider doing that on your phone while waiting in line for your coffee order–you have even less time, so your expectations for a site to load quickly are even higher.

Web performance is user experience. Fast page load time builds trust in your site; it yields more returning visitors, more users choosing your site over a competitor’s site, and more people trusting your brand. Users expect pages to load in two seconds, and after three seconds, up to 40% of users will abandon your site. Similar results have been noted by major sites like Amazon, who found that 100 milliseconds of additional page load time decreased sales by one percent, and Google, who lost 20% of revenue and traffic due to half a second increase in page load time. Akamai has also reported that 75% of online shoppers who experience an issue such as freezing, crashing, taking too long to load, or having a convoluted checkout process will not buy from that site.

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The altar of shiny

Web design trends often carry hefty performance costs

Web and mobile users continue to expect faster sites and apps–especially when it comes to mobile–and this year I’d like to see people who work on the web spend more time focusing on performance as a user experience priority instead of chasing trends.

I recently ran across this article in Forbes, which lists a number of web design goals/trends that Steve Cooper is eyeing for a site redesign of online magazine Hitched. My intention is not to pick on Hitched or Cooper per se, but the list is a molotov cocktail of potential performance woes:

  • Continuous scrolling
  • Responsive design
  • Parallax sites

You can use most of those techniques without creating performance nightmares, but it is unfortunately rare. I feel like I’m living in an alternate reality where I’m hearing that users want simpler, faster sites, and yet the trends in web design are marching in the opposite direction.

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Podcast: news that reaches beyond the screen

Finding ways to make media interact with the physical world

Reporters, editors and designers are looking for new ways to interact with readers and with the physical world–drawing data in through sensors and expressing it through new immersive formats.

In this episode of the Radar podcast, recorded at News Foo Camp in Phoenix on November 10, Jenn and I talk with three people who are working on new modes of interaction:

Along the way:

For more on the intersection of software and the physical world, be sure to check out Solid, O’Reilly’s new conference program about the collision of real and virtual.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Radar Podcast through iTunesSoundCloud, or directly through our podcast’s RSS feed.

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Design, Math, and Data

Lessons from the design community for developing data-driven applications

By Dean Malmgren

When you hear someone say, “that is a nice infographic” or “check out this sweet dashboard,” many people infer that they are “well-designed.” Creating accessible (or for the cynical, “pretty”) content is only part of what makes good design powerful. The design process is geared toward solving specific problems. This process has been formalized in many ways (e.g., IDEO’s Human Centered Design, Marc Hassenzahl’s User Experience Design, or Braden Kowitz’s Story-Centered Design), but the basic idea is that you have to explore the breadth of the possible before you can isolate truly innovative ideas. We, at Datascope Analytics, argue that the same is true of designing effective data science tools, dashboards, engines, etc — in order to design effective dashboards, you must know what is possible.

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Knowing and Understanding Your Audience

Measuring impact and changing behavior

I had the opportunity to sit down with Laura Klein (@lauraklein) and talk about the importance of creating effective user experiences. Laura is a UX expert and consultant. She stresses the need to figure out what works by talking to users and determining what works through usability testing. She’s also author of O’Reilly Media’s UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design. It hit home when Laura told me, “If people aren’t getting it, you’re probably doing it wrong.”

Key highlights include:

  • How to figure out what works, so you can avoid a poor user experience. [Discussed at 0:19]
  • It’s important to avoid porting a traditional process to a new product and service. Instead you need to think about how to design a new and natural experience. [Discussed at 2:16]
  • Think about context when designing new processes. [Discussed at 2:37]
  • The first step in creating a successful UX is knowing and understanding your audience. [Discussed at 3:49]
  • Using these principles beyond web sites. In all good UX applications, the goal is not to notice the interface. [Discussed at 5:16]
  • It’s critical to observe people, so you’re not assuming a knowledge base. [Discussed at 7:35]
  • The importance of A/B Testing. And how design is not an art; it’s trying to solve a problem. [Discussed at 9:54]
  • How the build, measure, learn lean methodology fits with UX design. It’s all about measuring the impact and changing behavior. [Discussed at 11:11]
  • You can view the full interview here:

    Related:

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