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Mid-Year Resolution: Address Site Speed

It's easy to get comfortable with your work processes. For around two years now I've been building custom designed websites using a similar stack of tools:

These have served me incredibly well. Pure is a fantastic, lightweight framework for the underlying grid of a responsive website. WordPress is the do-everything CMS with almost infinite extendability. Blankslate is just a good starting point for anyone making a completely custom theme. Finally Advanced Custom Fields allows you to add as many content pieces of any kind as you like.

Typically when I look to break out of a comfortable development stack it's because I want to redesign my own website. But this version of my site is the most content I've ever been with my own website in a long time.

I have founds another reason to change.

Change of location

When you're on a super fast internet connection site speed isn't a great concern. As soon as that connection speed drops it's easy to see how bloated the web has become.

I'm currently in India with only a 3G connection on my phone and even Wifi internet speeds here have been rather slow. Couple this with most of the Australian websites I'm still visiting seem to only be hosted in Australia, you get bogged down quickly.

Every news site wants to load ads, popups, videos, pre-roll video ads, huge images when all I'm looking to do is read the article.

Some mobile sites such as the Herald Sun have mobile sites so bloated on the front and back end that not only do they take 30 seconds to load, but the entire mobile view is obscured with navigation and adds before you scroll down to begin reading the news.

I'm not the only one noticing, obviously.


Death to the web

The web is becoming so slow that the native app community has it in its cross hairs. Facebook is soon to roll out Instant Articles, a publishing system which selected website partners will use to present their content within the Facebook app — not in a link to their website within the Facebook app.

An oft-cited 2004 study suggests that a tolerable wait time is approximately 2 seconds. ... Another study says that just 21 percent of modern websites load in less than 4 seconds on a smartphone...

The rush towards 'responsive design' for most site owners has simply meant taking the layout and making it smaller and narrower to fit a device size. But greater emphasis than ever needs to be put on site speed.

The worst part is we have done this to ourselves. The vast array of website tools to do great things never thought possible has never been larger. But these tools slow site speed down. So your parallax effect that looks great on a 27" retina display could be costing you visitors and conversions on mobile devices.

(Quick aside, Facebook's promotional site for Instant Articles is a bloated, jaggy, parallax heavy site. The irony.)

So with the web under threat from native devices the currently bloated web needs to change.

Alternatives

I suspect if it is not the case already there will be a huge push towards static site development tools. I'm currently very interested in WebHook. A self-hosted, self-backing up, static site builder.

Where WordPress pulls content from a database and creates pages on-the-fly, WebHook does all of this on a local computer and only shows a static (faster loading) version to the end user.

It's fast. Really fast. Since I still like this website layout I'll just be rebuilding this site with the same design on a new platform.

Changing the CMS is just the beginning. But from right now I'm going to be placing greater emphasis on site speed than ever before. If Facebook considers the web beyond fixing and would rather just replace it, it's time to change.