Beantin

James Royal-Lawson

UX

5 basic (and practical) ways to make your site load faster

Faster is better. There’s no arguing about it. Google likes faster pages, people like faster pages. Your 3G wireless connection loves leaner, slimmer pages. God damn, your shareholders love them too!


Website performance optimisation, like search engine optimisation – or any optimisation – is a fine art. It also follows the law of diminishing returns. The largest efficiently gains can be made from a handful of optimisations. Futher gains are possible but at an increasingly higher cost.

5 basic tips

Here are 5 practical ways that you can improve the load time of your web pages.

  1. Head stuff. Put CSS first, Javascript last – Javascript blocks loading the other files in the head part of your HTML. Put your CSS and Javascript in as fewer files as possible, and minify them all.
  2. Width and Height. Declare width and height on all img tags – this reduces the need for browser redrawing/reflow once images are loaded. Yes, you can set the size in CSS, but in the tag itself is marginally better and often possible for web editors to do themselves.
  3. Code efficiently. Both HTML and CSS. Deeply nested div tags, empty div tags and overqualified CSS-selectors make James cry. For many this will be the least practical suggestion in this list.
  4. Static content. Serve static content using a CDN or (for example) Amazon S3 and a separate domain (for example, I use media.t1n.se). With Amazon S3 it is very easily for any website to spread requests over 3 domains if needed. An additional advantage of a separate domain is that you can keep it cookie-free, reducing requests and bandwidth even further. Exception: serve your CSS from your main domain.
  5. Trim the fat! Have less stuff on your page! – Ground breaking advice I know, but it’s too easy to let your web pages become cluttered, especially with sliding banners, widgets, and other externally hosted scripts. Use ROPS to assess the cost of new features.

Bonus tips

It goes without saying that you should be using gzip compression and sensible caching policies on your web host – if you’re not already, then it’s likely that fixing it is probably not “simple” (or unfortunately someone somewhere isn’t up to their job).

Google’s page speed analyzer which is available as an additional to the Firefox add-on Firebug gives some excellent feedback on the state of your web site, including practical tips. It also provides optimised images and compressed scripts as ready-to-download files.

Yahoo have written up best practices with regard to improving site speed. The list includes 35 different tips, and should keep you going a fair while.

Finally, this article is a great bit of further reading and gives detailed advice but written in a way that makes it accessible for more than just the front-end web developers it targets.

Responsive

If you are working on a responsive website, then congratulations! Make sure website performance optimisation is a clear part of your work. It’s more important than ever in these types of websites and has a huge impact on the user experience.

If looking for ways to optimise your website feels a little beyond you, get in touch, I’d be more than happy to help you out.

James Royal-Lawson+ is a digital strategist, optimiser and web manager based in Stockholm Sweden.

Balancing login usability and security

Online security and passwords is a topic that never dies. We are hopeless at being secure, and a whole load of companies have shown they are equally as hopeless at it.

On top of that, hackers have proved time and time again how smart and inventive they can be in order to break things open.

I’m not a security expert, but I am an expert in usability and practical usability. This article is written with user experience in mind and considers how we can make digital services more secure without making users confused, disheartened, angry, or violent (or all of them at once).

UXLx 2012: Links to notes and podcasts

Between May 16-18 I attended UXLx User Experience Lisbon 2012. It was an intensive 3 days. I took part in 4 workshops, listened to 3 lightning talks, 10 conference talks, published 14 sets of notes, and recorded 6 podcasts. Phew!

And if that wasn’t enough, I met up with dozens of really interesting and clever people and (just like last year) almost talked and thought myself to exhaustion!

Unprecedented access to speakers

One of the excellent things about UXLx is the access you get to the speakers. The workshops
give you one opportunity, but most of them also attend the evening events and stay at the main conference hotel.

During the week I chatted with Dave Gray, Derek Featherstone, Rachel Hinman, Steve Portigal, Joshua Porter, Jesse James Garrett, Andrea Resmini, and Ginny Reddish (plus some of those who held lightning talks).

Notes and Podcasts

During each session I attended I took some notes. Straight after the talk or workshop finished I published them unedited on the unofficial uxlx participants blog so that I could share them with everyone both at the event and those who couldn’t make it.

Per Axbom and I also recorded six podcasts which we recorded live and published straight away, giving you an audio-peek into the events of the week.

In this blog post I’ve gathered together links to all the notes and podcasts I published during the conference.

Tuesday 15th May

Episode 12: James and Per conquer Garageband at UXLx

Our first episode came from our hotel room at the Trip Oriente. After a bit of a fight with our new microphones and Garageband we eventually got it together and kicked-off our series of on-site podcasts.

Wednesday 16th May

Sharpie, visual alphabet, drawing of a running man

Gamestorming workshop with David Gray

A proper workshop. Filled to the brim with practical, useful, go-home-and-try-them exercises. After hearing so many of last year’s presenters talk about gamestorming, it was great to complete the circle and get some hands-on coaching from Dave

Episode 13: James and Per cross channel gamestorm

In the day 1 post lunch podcast we talk about David Gray’s Gamestorming session and Peter Morville’s Cross-Channel Strategy workshop.

User Research Hacks with Gene Smith

Mental Models with Indi Young

A lecture at break-neck speed from Indi with 110 slides in the first 65 minutes. There was some excellent stuff in there, including sound advice on interview techniques. “”we are not the target audience”

Per and James recording UX Podcast at UXLx 2012

Episode 14: James and Per give a lecture

A run down of the afternoon of the first day of UXLx.

Thursday 17th May

Remote Research with Nate Bolt

A practical workshop session with Nate guiding us through how you can set up remote user research. Consider how can you be graceful and flexible when your technology breaks – as it will half of the time. Nate was as cool as a cucumber when the tech did break in our session.

Episode 15: James and Per talk to Dave

After lunch on day 2 we managed to grab Dave Gray for a few minutes to talk about his workshop yesterday and planning workshops in general.

Developing and Implementing Findability Standards with Ravi Mynampaty

Accessibility for UX Designers with Derek Featherstone

A long session with Derek, but some great accessibility stuff. I think it opened the eyes of a fair few in the audience. Derek described accessibility as extreme usability. If we look at the extreme cases and build to those extremes then everyone else will be somewhere in between.

Episode 16: James and Per have done all this research

Friday 18th May

Here are my notes from 8 of the 10 talks. My notes for Rachel Hinman and Kim Goodwin weren’t really up to scratch, so they are missing from the collection.

The Architecture of Understanding with Peter Morville

Opening talk of the day. “IAs are planners, organisers and bridge builders, But they are also architects of understanding.”

Discover and act on insights about people with Steve Portigal

Microcopy with Joshua Porter

One of my favourite talks of the conference day. “If your UI designer doesn’t sweat over every single word they add to a screen, you should probably fire them!”

Refined Design: Thinking Beyond the Device with Derek “Steve” Featherstone

Derek gave a great run through of a context aware conference website. UXLx take note!

Design for Engagement with Jesse James Garrett

“UX is design of anything used by people independent of medium or across media with human experience as an explicit outcome and human engagement as an explicit goal.”

The Long Neck Versus the Long Tail with Gerry McGovern

The tiny tasks go to bed and dream of being a top tasks. They then wake up and go down to the web team and demand to be on the start page.

Lean UX: Getting Out of the Deliverables Business with Jeff Gothelf

Lean UX: concept -> validate internally -> prototype -> test externally -> learn from user behaviour -> iterate.

Bill Buxton presenting at UXLx 2012

Ubiquitous Computing and the Emerging Digital Eco-System with Bill Buxton

The closing presentation from the legend that is Bill Buxton. Difficult to take good notes when you’ve got such a professional and entertaining speaker dancing about enthusiastically in front of you (or on top of you in Gerry McGovern’s case).

Saturday 19th May

Episode 17: James and Per wrap up #UXLx 2012

The Friday was too busy to fit in the recording of a podcast, so Per and I recorded our 6th and final UX Podcast of the conference from our hotel room on the Saturday morning. We gave a quick review of our 4 top talks from the Friday, chatted to Lynsey and Celine from Paddy Power, and finally a roundup of the entire conference.


James Royal-Lawson+ is a digital strategist and web manager based in Stockholm Sweden.

UXPodcast at UXLx 2012

During the 16-18 May I’ll be at UXLx in Lisbon. Like last year I’ll be travelling there from Stockholm along with Per Axbom. And also like last year we’re planning to cover the event in a few different ways.


Picture of the welcome sign to UXLx 2011

One of the ways we will be covering the event is through a number of on the spot episodes of UX Podcast.

Optimise or die

UX Podcast is a regular podcast for web professionals hosted by myself and Per. If you haven’t listened to it before, give our latest episode a listen. We interviewed Craig Sullivan (Optimiseordie on Twitter) about mobile websites and got some hands on advice based on Craig’s experience with Belron.

Broadcasting from the event

If you are at UXLx you might spot us recording an episode. Keep a look out for the UX Podcast rollup. If you see it, come and join us for a chat!

We are also planning to publish some notes, pictures, mindmaps, perhaps even sketches, with the help of other delegates on uxlx.posterous.com. If you’d like to contribute, let us know

And of course, there’ll be endless amounts of twittering from me using the hashtag #uxlx.

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