Published in 1989, Stephen Covey’s book – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – is regarded as one of the greatest books about personal growth and productivity ever produced.
Covey’s universal and timeless advice can apply to a multitude of aspects of our lives, and as we wrote about last month fast websites are good for the world. But it doesn’t just apply to people – it absolutely has its place in web development as well. Here are how his 7 habits apply to high performance websites.
Take the initiative to respond positively and improve the situation
Too many times, the performance of our website is only something that we consider once we realize that there’s a problem with it. This is the wrong way to go about building a site, as it will only create hard-to-solve problems down the road where you have to decide between functionality and performance.
- Considering the size of our images before we place them into the site
- Picking a good hosting plan from a reputable hosting provider
- Planning out which plugins you need when using a CMS like WordPress (and choosing reputable ones)
- Setting up lazy loading for images
These are all examples of proactive approaches designers and developers should be taking to ensure that their sites are performing well from the word go.
Begin with an end in mind
What are you trying to accomplish with your site?
Similar to the first habit, with this step you are taking stock of what your site is doing for you, and planning accordingly.
Are you building an e-commerce store with thousands of products and a huge database?
Is your site a portfolio that needs to feature many detailed photographs?
Do you just need a simple brochure site to serve as a business card for your company?
All of the above examples will require different tactics to ensure optimal performance. This obviously doesn’t mean that your site can never be scaled or change direction. However, knowing the ultimate goal will help you make informed decisions. Don’t simply jump into your project with no plan – before we design, we measure twice.
Put first things first
Prioritize, plan, and evaluate your blueprint.
Now that we’ve created a plan and decided the objective of our site, now we begin to take action. The objective of your site will guide you through placing tasks in the quadrants in the image above, and from there you can determine whether to Do, Plan, Delegate, or Eliminate those tasks.
In our above example, if you need a website for your photography business, the priority will obviously be optimizing images, lazy loading them, and bringing the size down so you’re not uploading 5MB images. You may also need to research hosting providers and examine which will suit your needs the best.
On the other hand, if your site is going to consist of mostly text and copy, then simple HTML and CSS, paired with basic hosting, may work best for you. Creating your site with WordPress or a CMS may be more bloat than you need for something of that nature.
Prioritizing and planning makes sure you don’t get bogged down in tasks that aren’t necessary for your situation.
Look for situations that are mutually beneficial
A highly performing website is beneficial for both the user and the owner of the site. When a user comes to a website that has been fine tuned, they aren’t having their time wasted with long load times, and their devices aren’t having their batteries and resources drained. The owner of the website also benefits in the form of lower bounce rates and reduced server loads (resulting in lower hosting costs). Win-Win.
This means any times you are optimizing your site’s performance you are providing a win-win solution. We’ve written many times about approaches that can teach you how to find optimal solutions for your site’s performance, and they all apply.
For example, in our image optimization article we discuss a multitude of image formats and walk you through when to use each type. With this information, you can choose an image format to fit your needs, whether it’s an infographic, a logo, an icon, or a portfolio piece. Making decisions like these instead of a one-size-fits-all approach is a win-win approach that will reap benefits for your performance metrics.
Thinking win-win is not a quick-fix measure. Having this mindset from the initial planning phases will make it easier to build a great foundation for your website, rather than trying to make patches after everything is live (and slow).
Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Think about your end user. Create an atmosphere of positive solutions
If you’ve followed any of our other writings, you’ve seen the statistics that show how detrimental a slow site can be:
- Bounce rate increases
- Revenue drops
- Overall opinion of your site is lower
By constantly thinking of our consumers and users, we can put ourselves in the best situations to be successful. Even if you’re not running an e-commerce shop, you are still trying to sell your content or your intellectual property.
When we understand what our visitors want and expect from a website in today’s age, we can create a design and a plan to meet those expectations. This is turns raises consumer opinion, and in turn, site visitors and revenue.
Combine strengths to achieve what couldn’t be achieved alone
This habit ties in perfectly with Putting First Things First. If you own a dating site, or any site where users trust you with their personal information, that site obviously needs to be highly performing and highly secured. In this case, generic shared hosting just isn’t going to cut it.
You could get a Virtual Private Server and manage it yourself, but that takes time away from everything else you need to do for your site. You’d have to learn how to manage it, and then spend time taking care of it. Perhaps a better idea would be to purchase managed hosting, and pay a hosting company to take care of everything on that end. You would never have to worry about your site going down, and the revenue that leaves with it, because you have a company in your corner taking care of it.
The scope of your site will determine the number of tasks that you personally can take on. Having a plan from the beginning allows us to decide whether we want to take on the design and the performance of the site ourselves, or if we need to synergize and delegate some of those tasks so that we don’t put web performance on the back burner, only thinking about it when a user complains about performance or security.
Sharpen the saw
Balance and renew your resources to create sustainable, long-term, growth
Web performance is a constantly evolving field, and as a site owner, you need to stay in touch with it.
There are always new skills to learn, new techniques to employ and better solutions to our problems. However, those that continue to learn and grow along with it will be that much better prepared to move forward and achieve your goals.
7 Habits is not just for people
Covey’s habits provide a blueprint for how to approach web performance as well as it does for our individual well-being. By making a habit of these 7 practices, you will make life easier for yourself while increasing the value for your users. You also ensure that you never reach the end of your website build only to realize that visitors are experiencing long load times, and subsequently bouncing. After all, you have an amazing website to offer, and we want to help you make sure people see it.