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Weekly Newsletter–back to the links

This week, back to a tried and true format–some links to recent articles I’ve found valuable that I hope you might too, which cross the topics we cover at our events.

How to eliminate render blocking resources

Performance has become a core competence of front end developers in recent years. We even started a whole online conference on the topic in 2021 (videos from this year’s Lazy Load coming soon to Conffab). But while the big picture Core Web Vitals, like Largest Contentful Paint might seem complex and hard to get a start on addressing, there are a number of relative small, easy to implement steps you can take that can have a dramatic effect. One of these is to look at what resources, like CSS and JavaScript, (in particular 3rd party resources) are render blocking that is CSS and JS that must be downloaded before a page starts rendering.

There are often very quick fixes once you’ve identified the culprits, as attendees at Lazy Load have already learned.

For an excellent overview of the problem and potential solutions, the folks at DebugBear have a detailed post on how to eliminate render blocking resources.

The History of User Interfaces

As an (ahem) somewhat more venerable person in our industry, and someone who became enthusiastic about computing long before the PC or even the Apple II, I sometimes lose sight of the fact that for most folks in our industry the early days of personal computing are ancient history. I recently came across a History of User Interfaces, with screenshots (what’s more, the capacity to take a screenshot on a computer is a relatively decent invention).

What you might find interesting is not so much how much UI design has evolved over the last 40 yers, but how many of the metaphors, and even components, of early computing are still with us particularly on desktop/laptop computers (and how tablets in particular still a decade after becoming mainstream struggle to invent new metaphors).

What does a car sound like?

“It is s****. I was on the pit-wall during the race, and it is (quieter) than in a bar! I think for the fans it is not good

Formula 1 Driver Sebastian Vettel

In 2014 Formula 1 introduced new engine regulations, and the V8s that had powered the cars for some years were replaced with turbo charged V6 engines. Fan outrage ensued. The organisers of the Australian Grand Prix threatened to sue. Where the new cars now slower, less able to accelerate, or even worse safer?*

*(New safety features are routinely criticised by some fans of the sport when introduced)

No. The engines were quieter.

Whether muscle cars or sports cars, engine sound was a key part of a performance cars traditional appeal.

Yet, the highest performance cars today don’t have engine sound. They don’t have engines (they have electric motors, which are essentially silent).

So will silence, not noise become the aural signifier of a truly powerful car? Not without a fight, as electric performance car makers provide drivers (and those outside the vehicle) with synthesised engine sounds. A little bit like kids in the 70s out bits of cardboard on their bike wheel spokes to make them sound (in our own minds) like motorbikes.

Porsche’s all electric Taycan comes with a $500 option called Electric Sport Sound, while the classic American muscle car, the Dodge Charger will also feature synthesised engine noise.

When we think of skeuomorphism, we think of the early iOS interface designs, but it’s more than that–a skeuomorph is “is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues (attributes) from structures that were necessary in the original”. Little could be more skeuomorphic than synthesised engine noise in an EV.

The web is a harsh manager

As we’ve been putting together the program for our upcoming Summit, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the conference program has evolved since its inception in 2004. Back then most people who worked on the Web were designers slash developers–few organisations had the budget for separate designers and developers. The term product manager as we use it today hadn’t been coined.

Of course today we have all kinds of specialisations, but that doesn’t mean the expectations placed on front end developers are any less than they were 20 or so years ago.

Dave Rupert wrote about the increasing demands on the front end recently in The Web is a harsh manager. Whether you are a front end developer, and perhaps more importantly if you manage front end teams, it’s a highly recommended read.

Stop Offering Career Ladders. Start Offering Career Portfolios

Somewhat related, back when we first started Web Directions there weren’t really careers on the Web–roles developing for the Web were, at most, a few years old. Major publications had perhaps a handful of developers (if that) working on them, and most developers likely worked alone–they were the Web person, who handled everything, from server setup to visual design.

Much has changed rapidly, but I also wonder whether we as individuals, or as the organisations who employ web and digital folks give much though to the structure and progression of careers? So much so we’ve added a career development track to this year’s Summit, and it’s an area we’ll also focus on from the management/leadership perspective at Code Leaders.

One of the challenges is traditional careers where often linear progressions, while career progression now is often what Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis call ‘squiggly’.

In this recent Harvard Business Review article, April Rinne considers a less linear approach to career development, from the perspective of an organisation, while a year for so ago she did so from the perspective of developing your own career.

Enjoyed this week’s roundup?

If you enjoyed this roundup, then it’s the same sort of thinking that goes into our conference programs. After 3 years COVID enforced absence we’ll be back in Sydney December 1 and 2, with 6 tracks, covering product management, design, content strategy, front end dev, and the react ecosystem, as well as that career development track I mentioned. We’d love to see you there!

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Phil Whitehouse General Manager, DT Sydney