I’ve come to accept that our current approach to remedy poor performance largely consists of engineering techniques that stem from the ill effects of our business, product management, and engineering practices. We’re good at applying tourniquets, but not so good at sewing up deep wounds.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that web performance isn’t solely an engineering problem, but a problem of people.
A bit of a tangent, but I love this description of reading maps:
Map reading is a complex and uniquely human skill, not at all obvious to a young child. You float out of your body and into the sky, leaving behind the point of view you’ve been accustomed to all your life. Your imagination turns squiggly blue lines and green shading into creeks, mountains, and forests seen from above. Bringing it all together in your mind’s eye, you can picture the surroundings.
CSS Grid is easy to use but difficult to learn. It’s a more intuitive paradigm than any other CSS layout technique, but it’s completely different from its predecessors.
Some great advice here on how to approach CSS grid:
- Use names, not numbers
- Use fr as your flexible unit
- Don’t use a grid system
Jon has seven answers:
- Build a culture to learn from mistakes
- Embrace healthy critique
- Fail little and often
- Listen to users
- Design. Learn. Repeat
- Create a shared understanding
- Always be accountable
It’s gratifying to see how much of this was informed by the culture of critique at Clearleft.
A useful set of questions to ask on any project, shuffled and dealt to you.
They’ll not only help you foresee unintended consequences—they can also reveal opportunities for positive change.
All of the content in images. Not a single image has alternative text. If only they had asked themselves:
When you picture your user base, who is excluded? If they used your product, what would their experience be like?
Tim explains why that neat trick of making a really big JPEG with quality set to 0% is no longer necessary, and how the savings you make in bandwidth with that technique are nullified by the expense of the memory footprint needed.
This post goes into specifics on Django, but the broader points apply no matter what your tech stack. I’m relieved to find out that The Session is using the tripartite identity pattern (although Huffduffer, alas, isn’t):
What we really want in terms of identifying users is some combination of:
- System-level identifier, suitable for use as a target of foreign keys in our database
- Login identifier, suitable for use in performing a credential check
- Public identity, suitable for displaying to other users
Many systems ask the username to fulfill all three of these roles, which is probably wrong.
I really like this “evil” design exercise that Jared has documented on Ev’s blog.
I broke them up into small groups of three, spreading each role across separate groups. I then asked each person to grab a sheet of paper and make their own list of ways they imagined the product’s user experience could be made worse.
I can relate to what Rachel describes here—I really like using my own website as a playground to try out new technologies. That’s half the fun of the indie web.
I had already decided to bring my content back home in 2017, but I’d also like to think about this idea of using my own site to better demonstrate and play with the new technologies I write about.
Vitaly calls them dirty tricks but this is a handy collection of front-end development techniques. They’re not really dirty …just slightly soiled.
An examination of how sites like The Session are meshing with older ideas of traditional Irish music:
There is a very interesting tension at play here – one that speaks directly to the design of new technologies. On the one hand, Irish musicians appear to be enthusiastically adopting digital media to establish a common repertoire of tunes, while on the other the actual performance of these tunes in a live session is governed by a strong etiquette that emphasizes the importance of playing by ear.
There’s an accompanying paper called Supporting Traditional Music-Making: Designing for Situated Discretion (PDF).
I love this. I really love this. Remy absolutely nails what makes the web so great.
There’s the ubiquity:
If the viewer is using the latest technology beefy desktop computer that’s great. Equally they could view the website from a work computer, something old and locked in using a browser called IE8.
Then there’s the low barrier to entry—yes, even today:
It’s the web’s simplicity. Born out of a need to connect documents. As much as that might have changed with the latest generation of developers who might tell you that it’s hard and complex (and they’re right), at the same time it is not complicated. It’s still beautifully simple.
Anyone can do it. Anyone can publish content to the web, be it as plain text, or simple HTML formed only of <p> tags or something more elaborate and refined. The web is unabashed of it’s content. Everything and anything goes.
I might just print this out and nail it to the wall.
If you sit back for a moment, and think about just how many lives you can touch simply by publishing something, anything, to the web, it’s utterly mind blowing.
When another company achieves success, there’s a lot of pressure to investigate what they did right and apply that to our own organizations.
But we still have a chance. As long as we run brave organizations made up of even braver souls who are willing to embrace expression, trust their intuition and experiences, and stand up when everyone else is sitting down, we will survive.
Some thoughts on progressive enhancement, although I disagree with the characterisation of progressive enhancement as being the opposite choice to making “something flashy that pushes the web to it’s limits”—it’s entirely possible to make the flashiest, limit-pushing sites using progressive enhancement. After all…
it’s much more a mindset than a particular development technique.
A really good introduction to front-end performance techniques. Most of this was already on my radar, but I still picked up a handy tip or two (particularly about DNS prefetching).
At this stage it should go without saying that you should be keeping up with this kind of thing: performance is really, really, really important.
A lovely bit of hypertext.
It might seem like an obvious point, but what Tim is talking about here happens over and over again: a technique is dismissed based on bad implementation.
Mark talks about design criticism. This makes a great companion piece to the Jon Kolko article on design criticism that I linked to last week.
Jon Kolko shares his advice on accepting design criticism.