Designing for Performance: Tips and Tricks
A series like Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design highlights the importance of design in the lives we lead nowadays, especially in an environment with a ubiquitous use of technology, which relies a lot of its seamless use to the developing of a good user interface (UI) and a good user experience (UX).
In modern web design, performance and user experience are both very important. Users are more sensitive to UX disruptions and lack of performance, which is why sites need to focus on these two elements at the beginning of the design and development process.
Designers are now more involved in the process of optimizing a website for performance and good UX. Sites that are optimized early in the development stage – when they are still wireframes and design mockups – will have better performance in the end. To help you design for performance, here are some neat tips and tricks to know.
Sprites are great for performance mainly because they only need to be loaded once. Instead of slicing visual elements into individual pieces, you can combine them into a sprite (or sprites) and load them together.
The developer can use a single sprite with multiple visual elements and display the correct element accordingly. A good example is how Facebook uses sprites for its UI elements; the Facebook logo and the site’s interface icons are all loaded from a single, highly optimized PNG file.
The way sprites are displayed is decided by positioning and masking in CSS. This is a much more efficient way of displaying visual elements. Switching to an optimized sprite can cut the loading time down by a whopping 60%. When you compare web hosting services – using resources such as hostingkingdom.com – you will quickly notice that minimizing the number of files that need to be loaded helps boost performance.
Know How to Package Images
Preparing the design for development and deployment is another important process to handle carefully if you want to maintain a high level of performance. Images need to be scaled correctly so that they can be served based on the user’s screen resolution. Scaled images work well for performance optimization because they allow smaller images to be loaded whenever possible.
Removing metadata, color profile information, and other unnecessary elements is another great way to optimize your design for performance. There is no need to include these details in images designed for web viewing only. As a matter of fact, removing them can reduce the size of your images by more than 50%.
I’m not saying you have to know how to code in CSS as a designer; not at all. I’m simply making a point that there is a lot to gain from knowing the basics of CSS. CSS is more capable than ever, which means you can substitute a lot of the visual elements used in a website with simple CSS codes.
CSS codes are more compact than images. By replacing most parts of the design with simple CSS codes, you’re taking the performance of the site to a whole new level. You save more than 80% on file sizes alone.
It is easy to see how performance optimization starts with a site design that takes performance into account. With these tips and tricks in mind, you can start designing great-performing sites from scratch.