On November 2nd the Rigor team enjoyed hosting 9 young women from the WIT Girls group for a fun night at Atlanta Tech Village. The focus of our workshop was Designing with Web Performance in Mind.
First, we learned why web performance is important. Businesses need websites to be fast so they offer great experience for visitors, but other types of websites also need to be fast and optimized, too. It’s important that visitors can get critical information when they need it, and we also want to help our mobile visitors save data.
Then, we covered five basic principles of designing for fast websites:
- Design for mobile first
- Prioritize important content above the fold
- Optimize images
- Avoid “third parties,” and
- Pick which elements to cache
With new knowledge and guidelines to follow, we challenged everyone to create their own personal websites. When we finished making our websites we ran our sites through Rigor’s free Optimization tool to grade our work. Would our sites be fast and optimized for performance?
It was a tricky challenge – especially since we only had a couple of hours to learn the guidelines and complete our projects. We learned about technology and web performance, but we also discovered some meaningful lessons that could be applied to other projects or work in life, too. Here are three big takeaways we learned while working with the WIT Girls:
Make, test, learn, iterate.
When it comes to web performance and life in general, holding out for perfection will always hold us back. One of the biggest things we all had to accept was that none of us would be able to build a perfectly performance website in our short time together. We did the best we could and then we forced ourselves to stop and use an automated tool to grade how we did. We knew we could learn from our test and make iterations – or small, continuous improvements – after we learned the results. Test early, test often, and don’t wait until you’ve made something perfect to share it with the world.
Convenience comes at a cost.
For the purposes of our project we knew we needed to build our websites quickly. We took advantage of a content management system (for this project we used Wix.com) that allowed us to quickly make our websites for free with an online editor. While Wix helped us make pretty websites quickly, it didn’t give us as much room for customization as we would have if we coded our websites from scratch. Whether you’re working on a personal project or an application for a big business, it’s important to understand the tools you’re using, how much control you’ll have over performance, and whether there are any plugins or customizations you can utilize to gain more control. Convenience comes with trade-offs.
Learn the rules…so you can break them.
The fastest, most performant website is a plain and simple one. But, sometimes you need more advanced functionality or rich media to serve a purpose for your visitors or users. Maybe you know that the best way to make your point is with a video, or maybe you absolutely need the ability to show recent posts from third party social media feeds on your homepage. Prepare to understand the performance impact of every feature so you can decide how important it is to include. You can adjust the rest of your design to accommodate. Don’t let performance optimization recommendations hold you back. Let those constraints drive your design, and maybe you’ll come up with an even more creative solution.
Rigor’s Designing with Web Performance in Mind workshop was hosted through the WIT Girls organization as an Immersion Experience event. WIT Girls is a fantastic part of the Women in Tech community that works to progress the role of women in the tech industry and to better STEM education opportunities for girls.
Ready to host an event? Interested in sponsoring the incredible efforts of WIT Girls? Or, do you know a young woman who would enjoy attending a similar workshop this year? Head over to the WIT website to learn about how to donate or get involved.