Why Performance Should Be Your First Thought When Building For The Web

One of the best things about the Internet is that we can share information world wide. However, our fancy layouts filled with animations and large images are making content unaccessible to a large part of the world. If our content is only accessible to 33% (world bank report 2016) of the world, we need to stop and rethink our approach.

Page speed becomes a big deal when you have less than 3G connectivity. Throttling your Internet connection can help give you a glimpse of what it is like for some of the population trying to access the web pages. However, I found testing with network throttling was not the same as actually being in remote parts of the world, which then trying to do something simple on the web turned into a huge ordeal. I had a taste first hand what people go through their whole lives with only partial access to the web.

Now obviously our lives are very different to people who live in third world countries, I am not saying that fast Internet will solve the worlds problems. However, I do believe that we should be creating more accessible content developing with performance in mind.

We have progressed a lot in even the short amount of time I have been in the industry. Now we have a lot of tools at our fingertips. Hopefully you have all heard of progressive enhancement? Usually it is referenced a lot with JS in mind. However, we can progressively enhance any web page offering a simplified experience for people with slower connections, or maybe even someone who just wants to save a bit of data. Just think of content first, then add on any tricks.

A performance checklist

  • Optimize Images & minify files sent over the server
  • Use JS for progressive enhancement, this means your should website works without JS
  • Don’t assume your end user is always going to have good internet connection
  • Concatenate JS and CSS to reduce amount of files that need to be loaded over the server
  • Have descriptive Alt tags for when your images don’t load
  • Test in a browser like opera mini, on actual devices
  • Throttle your connection with Charles proxy
  • Know what third party scripts are running on your site

Most importantly

You need to understand your users, and the real problems they encounter when trying to access your website on poor connections. Maybe next time you start a project, you can start to think about people further away from your front door so that web is not only for westerners, but a truly global thing.