Why your responsive website needs the power of performance

Industry experts focused on performance at this year's UpFront Conference - here's why.

Every web designer and front end web developer knows about the importance of responsive web design, but following the first UpFront Conference which brought together a host of some of the best minds in the industry, it's clear that there's even more to be thinking about for the future.

Responsive web design is more than just the look of site. In fact, for front end web developers and web designers, the key takeaway from the conference was performance. Performance at every stage of the process, both behind the scenes and for the user experience.

Pattern library design systems

To enable developers to perform well, it's essential that code is tidy and an organised convention is in place for naming files. This is vital for any future development work, and ensures consistency across every page and device.

Discussing his 'atomic design system', Brad Frost explained the importance of pattern libraries as a collection of styles, elements and pages.

Whilst it's not a new concept, it's one worth reiterating, because an organised structure of 'website brand guidelines' can make all the difference for optimising performance across devices and allowing designers and developers to complete changes or additional work quickly and effectively.

Multiple Device Performance

Providing a great experience on every device for every user is the foundation of responsive web design, and we're all well aware about designing and optimising for mobiles, tablets and desktop.

Anna Debenham's presentation however, focused on the plethora of devices and browsers beyond those we're accustomed to. Games console browsers are becoming an increasingly popular way to access the web, with 19 per cent of the UK population browsing online with devices like Playstation 4s, Xbox Ones and Nintendo Wiis.

The majority of websites are lacking compatibility with these browsers, and future development should focus on these new challenges, providing performance solutions which consider accessibility and usability via new input controls.

These could include voice activation, gestures and movements, or use of remote devices like smart watches.

Overall, understanding how different devices operate is key to ensuring optimal performance for users on every platform.

The experts were speaking at this year's UpFront Conference

Website Speed

Another clear message from the conference revolved around website speed; to be successful, a site has to be fast.

Much has been made from research by Amazon, which showed a 100ms delay result in a one per cent decrease in sales, and findings from Walmart that a one-second speed improvement saw sales increase by 20 per cent. Google's recent experimentation with a 'slow label' further emphasises this point.

Again, the speed at which a website loads should be considered from a design point of view, at the conception stage of a project. Often that may mean giving up those things which slow a website down, in order for it to run faster.

Examples of this could be the use of social sharing widgets, renowned for impacting performance yet used by only 0.2 per cent of users. Similarly, the use of a carousel, with its need to load additional JavaScript and images, could be a feature you consider dropping for future projects.

Next page: more about RWD performance from the industry experts