Thoughts on website performance

I recently read an article by Brad Frost, an acclaimed web designer, writer and speaker. As a designer who creates responsive websites a statistic in his article Performance As Design really jumped out at me.

74% of mobile web users will leave your website if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load.

A fine balance

The Internet has always been about delivering useful content to your audience in an efficient way, but with the rise of smartphones and tablets it’s now essential to strike a fine balance between aesthetics, content and performance.

Designers have had to change their workflow and think about performance much earlier in the design process. They’ve had to consider every resource that a web page loads up - images, scripts, stylesheets, and whether those resources add to the site or hinder it.

Over the past two years I’ve tried to incorporate a lot of new practices into my workflow to improve mobile performance and as always I’m learning and refining as I go.

The amount of testing I do has increased and sites are tested on actual devices to get an idea of how they’ll perform in the real world - phones, tablets, e-readers, smart toasters. Ok, I made that last one up but it’s only a matter of time! Just testing sites using a software emulator or shrinking your browser window to mimic a smaller screen really doesn’t really cut it anymore.

Designing in the browser

I’ve stopped creating new website visuals in Photoshop and started building working pages directly in the browser. This gives me the ability to test designs at an early stage of the project to see how they’ll perform with real content. And where once I might have been content to let Photoshop save images for the web I make use of great little apps like ImageOptim which can reduce image size even more without affecting quality.

I’ve also started using Google’s PageSpeed Insights, a handy tool which not only gives you a performance rating for your site on mobile and desktop platforms but also offers some really useful hints and tips on how to improve that rating.

In 2014 how your website performs, particularly on mobile devices can have real implications for your business. If your current website is sluggish and isn’t optimised for smartphones or tablets now might be a good time to consider a tidy up, a bit of optimisation work or maybe even a complete redesign.