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A Beginner's Guide to Performant Design Decisions

This article was originally published on the Foundry on September 21, 2015.

I’m extremely excited by the influx of practitioners of all roles becoming interested in performance. There has been a large change in the conversation, thanks in no small part to Lara Hogan’s book (available for free—you have no excuse not to read it!) discussing the real performance issue being company culture and process.

I’m a firm believer that good performance requires education—not only for our own teammates of all disciplines but education for our clients from the first day of our engagement about how and why performance benefits our project. Only after we are all on the same page can performance truly shine throughout the entire process. One of my favorite performance conversations that has been picking up steam has been centered around what other roles outside of development can do to prioritize performance in our work, specifically designers. There are many things that a designer has to balance to craft a thoughtful and useful design, and aesthetic is a wildly important piece of that. Many people think that a fast site means boring design, but it is a balancing act to ensure that a site looks beautiful while delivering the content fast. Through trial and error the past year or so, I have found and tested various processes that help me keep performance as a priority in my work.

How to Start a Podcast in 10 Days

We’ve now officially released 3 episodes of Path to Performance, the podcast that I co-host with Tim Kadlec. It’s kind of wild to think of how we went from 0 to episode 1 in the span of only a week, and now we have a full blown podcast that people actually listen to! The best part is that it’s fun, and a really nice break from designing and writing.

People have lots of questions about starting a podcast, and I think it tends to seem more complicated (or maybe less complicated?) than it really is. There’s lots of resources out there on how to start podcasting but I’m here to tell you some quick and easy ways to just GET OUT THERE AND RECORD and some of the snags we ran into along the way.

Thank You For Being a Friend

I grew up online. Not my entire life, but most of my formative years. I’m not sure if this makes me Gen Y or Millenial or part robot, but it’s what I’m used to. I wanted to share the impact this has had on my life and friendships I’ve had through the years.

Let’s take a quick trip back to 1997 America Online. I remember this commercial, I’m sure you do too. Or at least one like it. They advertised connecting with anyone in an instant. I was a kid who watched a lot of Nickelodeon and they’d always advertise “use AOL Keyword: ‘Nick’ to access all things Nickelodeon!” I begged my parents to get AOL, because I thought I was missing out on some crucial Rugrats funtimes that everyone else in the world had.

Finding a Groove

As practitioners we all have widely varying skillsets, use many tools, and have wildly different personalities. This makes it difficult to plug and play. It’s not because we aren’t all capable of producing the same quality of work, but because of the difficulty of finding that groove to get there. As I prepare to embark on a new journey with Sparkbox, I wanted to reflect on overcoming some challenges I’ve discovered when working with new teammates. Collaborating alongside new people is both exciting and difficult, but there are some things we can do to help smooth the transition.

Working closely with my teammates is something that is very near and dear to my heart. I owe everything I’ve learned in recent years to the people who have been by my side, making these things with me. I 100% believe that you are only as smart as the people you surround yourself with, so I really like to grow close to these amazingly smart people. I’ve been fortunate enough to build some strong connections to colleagues who are now some of my closest friends. Inevitably, when I feel there’s a disconnect between myself and a teammate—I take it to heart, like anyone that feels distance in any capacity of relationship. While the work usually doesn’t suffer, we all know deep down that it isn’t the most excellent job we know it could be. We have to smooth out the bumps and connect for the health of the project.

How do we find our groove?

Iterate, Collaborate

For the better part of this year, I have been wanting to house a blog on my personal site. The stars have finally aligned and it’s now live! With the help of Chris Coyier, we were able to build a Jekyll site that was easy for me to update without sacrificing my design vision. We worked closely together to both make design decisions and write the code. There are a lot of neat little details that went into this site that I wanted to share.

###SVG Bonanza I was inspired by the bold, geometric textile patterns that Dusen Dusen creates. The exciting energy of their patterns and shapes is something that I wanted to capture for the web. Since Chris knows a thing or two about SVGs, it made sense to utilize them for my shapes. I wanted to push a variety of animations to further create excitement within these shapes.