We are the gatekeepers: extended version

Thanks to all who attended my talk today at WordCamp Raleigh. One never knows how an opinionated talk about a non-technical, challenging subject will go over with a technical audience. I would say it went surprisingly well.

So, here’s all the “homework” that you were assigned:

Your Homework

In particular, if you are struggling with the idea of how to apply the notion of drastically reducing the amount of JavaScript you deliver the user to your practical reality, I think the article by Jeremy Wagner on A List Apart is a good place to start, because he says it is the first of a series, with the installments to come being practical guides to applying what he’s talking about.

Responsible JavaScript, Jeremy Wagner


Chrome Dev Summit 2016 – Progressive performance

Not Just Code Monkeys, Martin Fowler


Here’s one for extra credit:  The Ethics of Web Performance, Tim Kadlec


My Homework

After the talk a friend recommended a book that sounds like it’s very much something I’d like to read. It’s on the way to my house already. It’s Design for Real Life by Eric Meyer & Sara Wachter-Boettcher.

I had seen Eric Meyer’s WordCamp talk of the same name, and I can’t believe I didn’t remember it because I am sure it helped lead me to eventually speak on this topic myself. His heart-rending real-life experience with insensitive design decisions is extremely compelling.

I also need to read the book that I briefly mentioned at one point, Calm Technology: Principles and Patterns for Non-Intrusive Design by Amber Case.


A little more

I talked about interviewing the web strategists who would use the CMS we were building many years ago. I later observed some of our end users at work with the CMS after we finally got it into active use. One user was always frustrated with it. It was easy to dismiss her as just being inept or something like that – the UI wasn’t perfect but everyone else could use it. When I observed her in her office I discovered something surprising and enlightening. Her monitor resolution was set to 640 x 480. This was back in the day of square-ish CRT’s, no one had widescreen monitors yet, but no one ran at VGA anymore, either. She had done this to zoom everything and make it easier to read. As a result, the screen was always getting cut off or scrolling for her. I think we made some minor revisions to the UI so that it would fit a little better for her.

Another user who I observed around that time had never complained, but when I arrived in her office I realized that almost nothing was really legible for her because the brightness on her monitor was turned way up in an effort to deal with the glare directly on her monitor from her office window. I think the contrast was turned down as well for no obvious reason. Finally, the screen had an overall green tinge because the color balance wasn’t properly adjusted. With her permission, I corrected her monitor settings and further advised her to consider using her window blinds when needed. She was stunned at the result once she had proper contrast and color balance.

As a developer, having these encounters filed away helps inform my interactions with end users today – sometimes a well-placed question, request for a screen shot, or a timely screen-share can be incredibly enlightening. I am also a very big fan of modern LCD monitors that rarely need color-correction!