BOOK REVIEW: “Designing for Performance.”

Reading Time: 2 minutes

We’re sick someone can buy a single, small book and so easily learn in 1 day what’s taken us 10 years to acquire.

We feel remorse about this new book on balancing web aesthetics and performance. You can learn in a day what took us 10 years. While this book isn’t titled as a cookbook, it definitely is a book of detailed instructions. You do need basic HTML and CSS skills and Photoshop experience to understand the topics.

Download it fastest here (also, free). The compressed, optimized version is 3MB. You’d think, because of the book title, they’d remember simple web etiquette: speed!

book-coverThe 182-page, little book is titled, Designing for Performance: Weighing Aesthetics and Speed by Lara Callender Hogan © 2015. Price is about $33 US or less on Amazon.

Topics include:

  • The impact of page load time on your site, brand, and users.
  • Page speed basics: how browsers retrieve and render content.
  • Best practices for optimizing and loading images.
  • How to clean up HTML and CSS, and optimize web fonts.
  • Mobile-first design with performance goals by breakpoint.
  • Using tools to measure performance as your site evolves.
  • Methods for shaping an organization’s performance culture.

Readers can learn the basics of page speed and tips on optimizing images, HTML, CSS, and fonts. The goal is achieving a balance between aesthetics and page speed. The author, Lara Hogan, is an advocate of rapid-prototyping. That’s designing right in the browser instead of making wireframes first.

Do we think this is a definitive web reference? Nope. Nearly, 25% of the Internet is built with WordPress. That was glossed over. But, happy day, we can provide that content for you here on PagePipe!

PagePipe’s speciality is optimizing aesthetics and speed for WordPress websites. WordPress only gets a one-word mention on page 41 in this book. Yet, the speed concepts still apply to what we do – engineer customized websites. So we found this book valuable and contemporary. The speed and decoration goals are the critical issues.

Some web designers consider optimizing website performance is perhaps about coding or SEO. Nothing could be further from the truth. Well, almost. Lara covers the main points about getting better page optimization. Speed!

Her first point is aesthetics cause the bulk of drag on page speed. We recommend also watching Lara’s video presentation. She works as Senior Engineering Manager of Performance at Etsy. Poised and intelligent – Lara makes a seamless delivery of ideas. (And, no, she’s not our boss or affiliate!) No um’s, er’s, ah’s like other presenters. Her writing is, also, concise and well thought out.

Before you buy any of Steve Sounders works like High Performance Web Sites, Even Faster Web Sites and others. Or before buying Website Optimization by Andrew B. King, consider how many methods changed since those vintage copyright dates: Mobile bandwidth, Responsive pages, CSS3 and HTML5, Better browsers, Faster SSD servers, SVG images, Web fonts, Linux improvements, Affordable CDNs, Tiny screens, Retina resolutions, and, naturally, many more.

Many of today’s topics are not mentioned in those older, outdated books. Lara gives a snapshot of technology today and even a little glance into future changes.

The book’s focus is always about finding a balance between speed and branding (or design aesthetics). Laura demonstrates it’s possible to find UX sweet spots. It requires “good practices” and good judgment. “Designing for Performance” shows us how. We recommend it.

We’ve learned more about Lara online — on her website, videos, and various blogs. We admire her overcoming adversities in her life. These just made us enjoy the book more.

She didn’t include sappy stories or off-topic anecdotes that detract from the technical theme. Bravo! Good example for other authors. Why does she smile so big in her photos? We think she loves what she does.

You can download the free 10MB ebook as a PDF from O’Reily, the publisher >

What others think of us:


"That's very helpful. What a thorough report. I already implemented some of these changes. Thank You Steve!" comelody.com, Tiberius, Israel

by - Shlomi Tsur