Tell me, what are your key website goals?
- The design should be clean and on-brand
- There should be some "sizzle", but not too much
- We want beautiful photography and a bit of animation
- We should show up #1 for our keywords on Google
Can you have it all?
Google has started to include site speed as a metric in search rankings. Google has made the determination that site speed is a key metric of page value. Certainly Google "walks the walk" - just look at the Google homepage, which has one of the quickest page loading times on the web. But, of course, the Google homepage is incredibly sparse. Can your site really be that sparse?
Is this the end of big graphics, photos, video and animation?I hardly think so. Neither (I think) does Zeldman. As with most things in life, the answer lies in balance. It really depends on what the site is trying to accomplish. In some cases, being #1 for search engines trumps all else, aesthetics and functionality be damned. However, in most cases, the visual design does matter. First impressions matter. And while site speed may be one of the factors that influence first impressions (who wants to sit and wait for a site to load), it's hardly the only factor. Doesn't it seem that oftentimes, the sites that are most highly optimized for search (for example) are the ugliest?
Why now?This change, at this particular time in history, just seems odd to me. Bandwidth is approaching rapid ubiquity. Just this week, subscribers in NYC to Time Warner, Cablevision and Comcast can access free broadband Wi-Fi. Ironically, even Google itself is working to bring supersonic-speed bandwidth directly to the home.
Programming in the olden daysIn some ways, this reminds me of the early days of programming when computer memory was at a premium. When a programmer only has 16 kilobytes (or less) of memory to work with, she needs to be pretty clever. Even in the early 90's when I was studying computer engineering, a lot of effort was put into cleaning up after yourself to conserve memory at all costs.
Then, the price of memory kept going down. And down and down right up until today when memory has become so cheap that even mobile devices have tons to spare. Programmers no longer need to think of memory conservation as the top consideration. That's not to say memory allocation should be ignored - more efficient memory usage does lead to higher performing applications. It's just that it's no longer the #1 consideration, for most applications.
This page speed move by Google seems a lot like going backwards to a time of intense scrutiny of memory allocation by programmers.
Is this just backlash?Perhaps web designers in general have gotten too sloppy. Maybe we're using too much bandwidth now. Maybe we're not optimizing graphics as tightly as we should be. Maybe this is a good wake-up call from Google, because certainly speed does matter.
I just advise it's far from the only thing that matters.