We’re all tired of waiting for web pages to download, aren’t we? To make sure that visitors to your site don’t get frustrated, we rounded up some in-house experts to help you make your pages faster ‘n greased lightning.
Pictures are worth a thousand words — especially on the web, where pages of text can download in the time it takes for a single image to load. Your images may be sub-zero cool, but if they’re too plump, few people will stick around long enough to see them. We’ll dig into tricks and optimizations to speed up your GIF, JPG, and PNG downloads.
Once you’ve learned the basics of shrinking your images, we’ll will walk you through the advantages of using CSS for your page layout. And, if you’re one of those people who insists on using tables, we’ll offer you a few choice hints on how to get those tables slim and streamlined.
After you’ve removed the bloat from your layout code and your images, you’ll learn how to cut needless elements from your pages. Hint: Start with all those links.
The series concludes with wise words about how to come up with benchmarks for speed and how to test your site using nothing but a stopwatch and a pencil.
Get started with with lesson 1
Site Optimization Tutorial
Ask any web designer about the use of typographic design on web pages and they’ll tell you the same truth: The web is a harsh, uninviting environment for the delicateness of fine typography. Along with the usual web culprit of platform inconsistency, the extreme low resolution of even the best current screens means type online can only allude to the geometry of the typefaces you’ve so carefully chosen and specified.
Continue Reading “Web Typography Tutorial – Lesson 2″ »
A picture’s worth a thousand words. An old saying, but true enough on the web where you can transfer chapters of text in the time it takes to download just one big image. Ever notice how pictures are always the last thing to show up when you’re surfing? That’s because the biggest hunk of download time comes from the image files.
Over the next four days, we’ll be looking at all the different ways to get pages down to their leanest and meanest. Today we start with the most egregious and most obvious culprit: images.
By the way, a lot has changed since the first edition of this tutorial – there’s more to optimizing image performance today than just knowing your GIFs from your JPEGs. (Though we’ll review that, since this may be your first time around.) There are now other file formats (like PNG) worth considering, and improved weighted-optimization techniques to throw into the mix.
And, hey, quite a bit hasn’t changed. For one, web users haven’t gotten any more patient. It doesn’t matter how ice-cool your images may look – if they can’t be downloaded quickly over a 56K modem, very few people without broadband will stick around to see them.
Fortunately, there’s still a host of tricks and optimizations that web designers can implement to speed image downloads. Let’s start with the easiest thing in the world.
Continue Reading “Site Optimization Tutorial – Lesson 1″ »
Once upon a time, a web designer wished to communicate a page’s location within the hierarchy of an entire site. There was only a small space available at the top of the page. The designer thought for a while, and eventually found the answer between the keys of his keyboard:breadcrumbs.
What are breadcrumbs? Well, if you have ever browsed an online store or read posts in a forum, you have likely encountered breadcrumbs. They provide an easy way to see where you are on a site. Sites like Craigslist use breadcrumbs to describe the user’s location. Above the listings on each page is something that looks like this:
s.f. bayarea craigslist > city of san francisco > bicycles
Translated to English, that says “I’m looking at bicycles for sale within the city limits of San Francisco, which is located in the San Francisco bay area.” Phrased another way, it says, “If I go to the Craigslist home page, click on the San Francisco location, and then choose bikes for sale, then, with a little luck, I’ll find these listings.”
As far as I can tell, the name “breadcrumb navigation” is derived from the children’s story of “Hansel and Gretel” by the Brothers Grimm:
“Just wait, Gretel, until the moon rises, and then we shall see the crumbs of bread which I have strewn about, they will show us our way home again.”
Smart Hansel! So, that’s the skinny on breadcrumbs. Now let’s look at how they can be used on your site to help your users find their way around.
Information architecture is the science of figuring out what you want your site to do and then constructing a blueprint before you dive in and put the thing together. It’s more important than you might think, and John Shiple, aka Squishy, tells you why.
Squishy first looks at how to define your site’s goals, shedding light on the all-important art of collecting clients’ or co-workers’ opinions and assembling them in a coherent, weighted order of importance. He also shares his scheme for documenting everything so that all parties can keep up.
The next step is figuring out who the heck your audiences are going to be. Once that’s out of the way, you can start organizing your future site into pages of content and functions that the site will need to have.
Next, Squishy gets into creativityland, where you start to build the beast:form a skeleton, pick your metaphors, map out your navigation. Then it’s time to break out the graphics program, come up with layout grids, design sketches, and mock-ups, and get ready to build!