Being Efficient on the Web — Everyone Wins
Nov 11, 2011
Listening to the November 6, 2011 episode of This Week in Tech (also know as tWiT) podcast, the tech pundits were talking about hard drive manufacturers’ inability to build and ship new drives. While there is no supply shortage yet, we are already seeing price gouging, with some 1TB hard drives increasing up to 180% of their original price.
While this affects your wallet when you need to upgrade a computer’s storage or when it’s time to buy a new computer, the connected world stores more and more of their data online. There’s real potential of a hard drive shortage affecting all kinds of cloud-based products such as Google, Flickr, Facebook, to name a few. Online companies all rely on a slew of large and plentiful hard drives to store all your photos, posts and other data.
But the tWiT podcast also made another big point. We’ve been spoiled by the low cost of storage media in recent years, and have gotten sloppy and lazy with making data storage efficient.
Two things can come out of this potential shortage, and they both entice me:
1) With prices on the rise, this could be a great motivation for people to come up with new technology that is more efficient at data storage, and concurrently speedier in the process. Innovation spurred by necessity and want of a lower-cost solution is exciting.
2) In web design and development, events like this may help push a renaissance in coding efficiently. Price gouging and shortages can be a major catalyst to motivate change, and to make things better on the Web.
Online efficiency is something that everyone can benefit from in the very near future — and most with fairly simple workflow changes when designing and developing.
When the web was first spawned, access was via dial-up, meaning slow page loads and even slower downloads. Saavy web professionals scrutinized every individual image, optimizing to make file sizes as small as possible, while simultaneously balancing making the visuals look as good as possible.
While these image optimization practices haven’t gone away with many designers and developers, it’s something everyone should be doing and be reminded exists. Programs like Photoshop and Fireworks have “Save for Web” modes that strip out extraneous information and optimize file size. Even PNGs, with their notoriously large file sizes can be wrangled in through free applications like PNGCrusher (now discontinued, but still available and still very valuable).
These techniques aren’t just about tightening up the code though. In some ways, we’ve returned to our dial-up roots with mobile devices that sport full web browsers on a smaller screen. While there are many spots worldwide that offer fast 3G and 4G connections, they aren’t a given. Mobile data can fluctuate wildly in speed and availability, meaning mobile developers needs to focus on make files small and efficient to allow for speedy page loads no matter the data connection.
Additionally, mobile and a lot of home connections are now enforcing data caps, so your users not only benefit from your smaller-sized code and resources in terms of speed, but they will appreciate less data slurping as they approach their bandwidth quotas.
Just because you’ve got an unlimited data plan with blazing fast speed, doesn’t mean everyone does. With just a little bit of effort, we can all make the web a more efficient and less data hungry place.
If you want to get into more detail and into more ways to optimize your web properties, checkout the Yahoo! developer article, “Best Practices for Speeding Up Your Web Site.”