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Design and build for the worst case scenario

Posted in Accessibility, Performance and Search

Performance matters. If your website loads slowly it could be costing you business.

Search engines score your website according to how a real visitor would experience it. There are three things you should ask yourself:

  1. Is your content great?
  2. Are people linking to your content?
  3. Is your content communicated on a well built website?

Number 3 is what we’re going to home in on.

Google have written about how they use performance as one of their ranking factors, and it’s more important now that it has ever been. I’ve written before about how mobile friendliness is something Google and other search engines are now measuring, and if your site is designed to adjust its layout to the size of the screen it’s being viewed on, that’s a great start. But there’s more to it than that…

So what’s the worst-case scenario?

Designing for the web comes with a whole host of constraints that you don’t get with other media, like print (which, by the way, comes with a completely different set of challenges!).

The most obvious is screen size, and your phone’s small screen is the probably a good example of the ‘worst case scenario’ in terms of screen sizes. In fact, the goalposts have changed recently: the smallest screen might now be a watch face! If your site’s design works nicely on one of these tiny screens, you can be sure it’ll also work well on larger screens.

Another challenge unique to the web is internet connection speed. Even if your site’s design looks great on small screens, how does it fare when there’s a slow connection?

Mobile phones are designed to be used anywhere, and it’s very likely people will want to visit your site when they’re in an area with low signal. If your site is designed to give a good experience to visitors with on ‘Edge’ or ‘GPRS’, it’ll be blisteringly fast when they’re on a decent 3G connection, 4G or wi-fi.

It’s good to be a pessimist!

Where where web development is concerned, if you prepare for the worst you’ll give everyone a good experience of your site. If your message is able to be communicated in even the most hostile of environments, you know for sure it’ll be delivered to someone in more optimal conditions.

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More resources

Here are a couple more resources for you to enjoy. If that’s not enough, have a look at the full list.

  1. Not all screen reader users are blind

    There’s a common misconception that everyone who uses screen reader software is blind; that’s mostly the case, but not always.

  2. Accessibility by degrees

    Retro-fitting accessibility is far from ideal but usually the only way digital products are able to reach all of their potential users.