Designing for Performance

Foreword by Steve Souders

The next major milestone in the adoption of performance best practices is evangelism within the design community.

When I started collecting performance best practices, I focused on optimizations that did not impact the amount of content on the page. I wanted to avoid the “performance versus design” debate. (I knew the designers would win!) Within this constraint, there are still many optimizations that significantly improve performance: gzip, CDNs, caching headers, lossless image optimization, domain sharding, and more.

That was 2004. Today, many of those obvious optimizations are in place. And yet the size and complexity of websites grows at a rate that makes it a challenge to deliver a fast, pleasant user experience. Making today’s websites fast requires considering the performance impact of richer, more dynamic, and more portable web content. Luckily, developers and designers share a drive to deliver the best user experience possible. This is the fertile ground that awaits you in Lara’s book, Designing for Performance.

There’s no question that a website’s aesthetics are critical to delivering a compelling user experience. Now, after 10 years of gathering best practices, highlighting success stories, and evangelizing the need for speed, web performance is also recognized as being critical. It’s time to discuss design and performance together—not as a debate, but as a collaboration that results in a beautiful user experience.

I use the word beautiful intentionally. The design of a website, its aesthetics, is often described with words like beautiful, refreshing, compelling, and exciting. Those descriptors are equally applicable to the experience of a fast website. After experiencing the sluggishness and frustration of a slower alternative, users find that an optimized website is also a beautiful experience.

Thanks to Designing for Performance, designers and developers have a framework for their collaboration. Lara outlines the questions that need to be answered, and the means for answering them. She provides numerous examples of the trade-off discussions that lay ahead and how successful teams have resolved them. Most important is that Lara compels us to start these discussions early in the design and development process, while code and mockups are still evolving and there’s time to recognize and resolve performance challenges to deliver the beautiful experience that users deserve.

—Steve Souders, Fastly Chief Performance Officer
Author of High Performance Websites and Even Faster Web Sites