Why Web Efficiency (WPO) and Search (SEO) are Design Features

Many of my posts have been about the ability to do a “deep rollback” – meaning that Web Performance (WPO) insights need to be able to influence the overall design of the site. In contrast, most sites today have significant Ux input at the initial design levels, but once a high-resolution prototype is created, it off to the siloed site engineer, who is expected to “just fix” efficiency and performance problems.

Ditto for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) work. While the ability of a user to find a site, and more importantly, know that they’ve “arrived” is the concern of SEO, the design elements of “landing pages” are often designed in a vacuum.

Some recent articles address why this is a problem, and why design must be influenced by WPO and by extension, web sustainability considerations.

A few years agoGuy Podjarny tested a large set of responsive design websites. The result? While the sites adapted to the smaller screen, most sent the same or even bigger files to the browser, In other words, mobile users got the same bloatware web page crammed into a smaller space.

Since users now follow a “three second rule” (they are only willing to wait 3 seconds for a page to load) bulkware, but responsive doesn’t cut it. Also, charges for big pages on mobiles can be considerable – over $1 US in Germany and Japan

The implications were summarized by

At the server level, some of these problems can be fixed by using a “reverse proxy” server setup like Varnish

 But the larger implication is that our definition of “responsive design,” as adapting to viewports, is too restrictive. Already, work on responsive logo design shows that the general design concept can be extended to the visual layer.  We can imagine sites that are “responsive” in other ways, including:

  • Device bandwidth
  • Device cpu
  • Whether a mobile connection is “metered” (charged by time instead of flat-fee)
  • Detected audience persona
  • International origin
  • Smartphone sensor data (are we bouncing around in a car while we surf?)
  • Facial expressions (intrusive, but it seems it will happen – possibly a warning on sites similar to the EU “this site uses cookies” banner?)
  • Timing of user clicking (make it simpler if clicks are erratic or clumsy)

This kind of thinking blends responsive design right into User Experience (Ux). Good! But it all needs to be balanced by Web Performance testing.



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