Yikes! What Happened?

A while back, last year maybe but it looks like I deleted the post, I spent a considerable amount of time making this site reach perfection (two 100s) on Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. Here’s what it looks like today (18 Oct 2015):
pageSpeedInsights_18Oct2015

So, what happened?

I changed my caching plugin from “W3 Total Cache” to “WP Super Cache” but it’s hard to believe that would cause much problem. I also installed a plugin to support Accelerated Mobile Pages (which so far seems to do nothing at all but I haven’t poked at it), but I think the real reason for the decline in my score is neglect. The world kept turning but I stopped paying attention to this site. For a freelance developer, that’s a good thing because when we have paying work we tend to ignore our personal sites, but it’s embarrassing for a guy who’s supposed to be Performance Focused.

So, I’ve got some work to do here, don’t I?

Labels On Forms

Making forms that look good and work well is hard. At Sitepoint, Jessica Enders has made it a little easier with “The Definitive Guide To Form Label Positioning“, which I would have called something like “A Look At Form Label Positioning” because I tend to hedge, but it’s certainly a guide and if not definitive it’s danged helpful.

Ms. Enders lists the Pros and Cons of 5 placement options (label on top of the field, to the left of the field and flush left, to the left of the field and flush right, inside the field, as a tool tip), dismisses the last two as a bad idea and provides some questions you can ask yourself in deciding among the others (“Will this form be filled out on small screens?”, for instance).

But making forms that look good and work well is still hard.

Should You Rethink Your Facebook Strategy?

Rick Mulready at Entrepeneur quotes a Facebook rep:

[Facebook is] getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you’re a business is to pay for it. … We expect organic distribution of an individual page's posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.

A loose translation of that might be “if Facebook is part of your business strategy prepare to open your wallet.”

Not being particularly sociable, I' not a big user of social media and I don’t have a Facebook account. So, this may be colored by personal predispositions but I have never thought it was a very good idea for a business to make a strategic commitment to a third-party platform unless the relationship was something close to symmetrical. If one party has all the power, and in the case of Facebook or Mircrosoft or Google it's them, they'll evolve according their own needs without regard for yours, and one thing you can count on is that somewhere along the line they will want more of your money than they're getting. And then they' take it.

I don’t know if it’s time to “Ditch Your Facebook Strategy” as the article suggests, but a strong branded presence under a domain you control is always going to provide a foundation to build on if you need to revise, and reduce the importance of, you social media strategy.

Fast, Cheap, Good: More Good, Please

Consider the famous design maxim — “Fast, cheap and good: pick two.”

The point so tersely made here is that every project involves tradeoffs, so that if something must be done quickly and cheaply, for instance, it probably won’t be very high quality. Or, if you want some high-quality thing developed cheaply, it’s probably going to take some time.

In the Web development universe, the maxim mostly holds true if we recognize that it’s a simplistic rule useful for broad guidance but not necessarily for detailed decisions. I provide the maxim to my clients from time to time when circumstances force them into difficult deliberations and it helps.

In the last few years, I’ve noticed (and this is the reason for this post) that “fast and cheap” have left “good” in the dust, that I have conversations that include statements like “We don’t have much money for this…” far, far more than statements like “This needs to be really good…”

I miss the good.

Microsoft Pushing Internet Explorer Updates

According to an article at Slashgear, Microsoft will begin pushing updates for old versions of Internet Explorer in January, 2012. Although users will be able to prevent, or to roll back, the updates, they will need to take positive action to continue using old versions.

This welcome action — welcomed by every developer I know — won’t cause those versions to disappear, but will make them less popular, and provide a rationale for convincing clients to forgo the time and expense, and downright silliness, of supporting them in their websites.