How expressive and classic design aesthetic affect mobile speed.

Updated: July 2018
Plugin Surgery

We hate waste. We’re unconventional thinkers and love creative problem solving. We take a different path to page speed improvements. Our odd ways make us smile.

We avoided CMS (WordPress) as long as we could. We handcoded using HTML, CSS, JavaScript snippets, with sprinklings of PHP. Why? Speed! We don’t consider ourselves coders. We’re not fascinated with it. Instead, we seek shortcut solutions. We’re natural advocates for WordPress plugins for non-coders.

As late adopters of WordPress, we balked and complained about WordPress slowness. But we accepted the challenge. We’ve proven it’s possible. But not without sacrifice of unproductive and expressive aesthetic features. There’s usually some *precious* but non-productive gadget or plugin destroying speed. It must be placed on the sacrificial altar to Mercury, the Roman God of Speed.

Our goal is to save the Internet from WordPress speed abuse.

Expressive aesthetic design in web-speak is often called “feature rich.” Feature rich and speed require a fine balancing act. Speed is a kindness to your users.

Yet more than speed, we’re concerned how UX affects profitability. Speed is the first barrier to good UX. Classic design aesthetic makes it so nothing distracts from the focus: the products or content. But too much classic aesthetic can be boring.

The Internet average page load time is 8 seconds. Way too slow. A site’s better than average when it meets the expectation of 2 seconds or better. Subsecond page loads are best for mobile. But that’s extreme performance optimization. We go into the red zone whenever we can.

This pullquote is an expressive design element.

Expressive design elements are intended to attract attention. But, they slow down site speed and make for a poorer user experience (UX). Specifically, anything that “moves” is expressive aesthetic. But it’s not limited to animation. If you get too much expressive aesthetic, you end up with visual noise and confusion.

What’s most important? When the user wonders what they should click next, you’ve failed. The hope is making sales – not noise. So these are the offenders: chat box features, sliders, disappearing Main Menus (make it persistent-on-scroll instead), popup surveys, animated product rollovers. And of course, poor hierarchy on the page (bad emphasis).

From our experimentation with human memory and boredom, users only tolerate 12 choices on a page. Then they feel overwhelmed and overloaded by cognitive burden. The more choices, the harder a buying decision.

Animation is more negative than positive for UX. It distracts most. The assumption is because humans are hardwired to snap visually to anything that moves out of fear, this instinct can be harnessed to direct attention.

Have you ever tried reading a page with a fly crawling on it? Annoying isn’t it.

Popups and sliders are intrusive. Flies! Even repulsive to user attention. They annoy. Users feel they’re manipulated by faddish, slow-loading gimmicks. We don’t care how effective the popup or slider plugin authors – and affiliates claim. Their opinion doesn’t count. It’s biased. No source credibility.

http://pagepipe.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/sliders.pdf

What-slider-is-the-fastest-loading?

When-to-use-a-responsive-slider-and-speed-tips.

Carousels and sliders address two mythical universal design problems:

1. “How do I fit more content into such little space?”

2. “Our committee can’t decide what content is the most important.”

These are seductive temptations for sliders caused by above-the-fold design delusion and myth. It demonstrates how design-by-committee sucks. Dilution of attention is the result.

What’s above-the-fold on mobile devices?

Get rid of sliders as a design crutch. This forces better content and design decisions. It lightens the page weight. What’s the most important content? How can you meaningfully and simply present one, single, most-important motivating idea?

You can’t emphasize everything. Emphasizing everything equals empathizing nothing – a marketing adage (E2=E0). If you attempt emphasizing more than one idea, you create cognitive and visual noise. Confusion, delay, or abandonment results.

The screen real estate is better used by a static image. Or even better – NO IMAGE AT ALL. State with non-moving text: who you are, what you do, and why it’s important to your audience. That’s your positioning statement or elevator pitch. Advertise it everywhere on your site.

Of course, these concepts really only matter if your home page gets traffic. If not much, then none of these tricks and strategy are significant.

So what are your 5 most trafficked pages? The ones that get 80 percent of traffic. Let’s look at those. Is the home page one of them? If not, then we don’t need to worry about it.

Get rid of:

  • Sliders.
  • Popup plugins.
  • Chat boxes.
  • Facebook.
  • Unprofitable products. (Reduce the site clutter).

Do Pareto efficiency analysis. Dump the duds. Unless these items listed above have quantifiable benefit and actually produce profits (not sales or traffic but real profits). Justify keeping them.

Facebook is often your worst non-productive site drag. 762k of assets loading for what purpose? Quantify how much Facebook *helps* your site profitability (not traffic numbers – quality not quantity). Then decide. Facebook usually takes traffic away from your site. Focus on profit – not artificial expectations.

There are other esoteric performance tweaks we do on our site. Like selective plugin activation – and dumping emojis, webfonts, and Font Awesome. Optimizing WooCommerce. But we’ve listed some low-hanging fruit above.

We make speed improvements for a $500 project fee. But read PagePipe and you can make the changes yourself (DIY). Save money.

Godspeed—

Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

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