There’s something wrong with portfolio pages nowadays when being disrespectful with your viewer’s time, patience, privacy and internet connection has become the norm. Here’s why and how I want to try to do things differently with my websites.
They’re being lazy.
The other creatives – graphic designers, art directors, copywriters, photographers, etc. – whose websites I’ve been checking out recently are going for easy, one-click websites powered by Squarespace or Behance or Wix or Cargo or whatever. A quick and uncomplicated website without needing to think about what actually drives it – sounds great, right?
The easiness has a price though. Being lazy and not wanting to inconvenience yourself even slightly by using these one-click solutions produces websites that are bloated, slow and based on messy code with completely inflated markup. As someone who pretty much grew up inhaling “Designing with Web Standards” by Jeffrey Zeldman back in the day, it’s painful to see.
- They’re serving absolutely massive network payloads, with no regard for the visitor’s connection, either compressing their images badly or not at all and taking absolutely forever to load.
- They’re adding Google Analytics and a bunch of tracking scripts for no other reason than to stroke their egos.
They aren’t respecting my connection.
You want your viewer to get to your content as quickly and as painlessly as possible, right? So maybe start by respecting their internet connection! Not everyone is on a fiber connection. Many barely even have decent broadband!
An amazing connection should not be necessary to view something as simple as a portfolio page. It’s just images and text with an occasional video thrown in after all.
I know what I’m complaining about. Prior to living in Sweden, the Land of Internet™, I lived in the German countryside, a Land before Internet™. With download speeds as spectacular as 3.5 Mbit/s, a portfolio page that assumes fantastic internet connectivity not only never loads when the connection is slow, it makes me want to find and murder the person that made the site. The way some of these portfolio sites treat your network connection is nothing short of an insult.
It’s not a subjective thing. It’s objective, too. Google PageSpeed Insights for instance routinely gave the handful of other websites I tested scores well below 40 (out of a possible 100). Most of them took over 5 seconds to show content and twice that to fully load and be interactive.
Honestly – it’s complete madness out there! Party like it’s 1995 and web standards never happened. What on earth are they thinking? Are they even thinking? Shame! Shame! Shame!
They’re wasting my time.
Click. Fancy animation. Half a second passes. Page fades out. Half a second passes. Page fades in. Wow! So fancy.
Chances are I’ll remember you for the annoying website, not for the great work.
They’re feeding their egos with cookies.
So they add Google Analytics to their site. Yeah, it’s only a portfolio site that serves a very niche audience, but they really need to know how many people visit and where they’re from.
Why? One reason and one reason only: to stroke their ego. In fact, their ego needs stroking so very desperately that they’re willing to just pass on all their visitor’s information to Google. Let’s park a few cookies on our visitor’s computers, let’s hand over their browsing habits to a boatload of other services and let’s give them a little cookie notice to click on as soon as they come through the door.
Wow. What a respectful way to treat your guests!
Forget that noise!
I want to do things differently.
Spoiler alert: I am not a web developer. But I’m also not a complete embarrassment like some of these other clowns. I’m trying to put some actual goddamn effort into my sites. And not just into the stuff that you see, but also into all the stuff you don’t. Because even if you can’t see it, you can definitely feel it.
- I want to get straight to the point and show you what I have to show as quickly and as efficiently as I can. I don’t want you to have to wait, no matter how good or bad your internet connection is.
- I want to make the site quick and easy to navigate. In, take a look, have a read, out. The site exists only to convey content.
- I want to respect my viewers by not collecting any kind of data about them. No analytics, no cookies, no nothing. I don’t care who you are or where, how and when you’re viewing the site.
This is my way.
My websites – most recently bergberger.com and alexandbernie.com – are powered by the fantastic Jekyll, a static site generator. Static because static is fast as hell – there’s nothing quicker – and a portfolio site really really really doesn’t need all sorts of dynamic programmatic functionality. It’s only a portfolio site. Chill out. It shows pictures, videos and text. It isn’t rocket science.
Speed, speed and more speed.
While the other amateurs haven’t even loaded yet, you’ve already scrolled through my homepage. That’s what I consider being respectful with my visitors time.
Because the site is static, there’s no need for any fancy shmancy server solutions that add overhead, costs and slow things down. I host my pages on AWS S3 buckets and mirror them across the globe using the AWS Cloudfront content distribution network. Simple. Fast. Infinitely scalable.
I care about your privacy.
A piece of cake to administrate.
The rest of the magic happens behind the scenes automatically: AWS CodePipeline is triggered by github, hands the latest commit to AWS CodeBuild which builds the site, pushes it to the S3 Bucket and does the necessary Cloudfront invalidations. Done.
The page is blazing fast, easy to manage, modify and update and costs me next to nothing each month. More than I can say for most of these other websites.
You can feel it.
See for yourself. That’s what a website that systematically scores decent PageSpeed scores feels like. That’s the difference appropriately sized and responsively served images make. That’s a website that respects that your mobile plan might have limited speeds or data allowances. That’s valid, clean and semantically correct markup making everyone else look even slower than they already are. That’s a site that respects your privacy.
They call themselves creatives? Forget that noise.
I’m not a web developer. Never have been. This isn’t my job. But I am going all-in and am making an effort and this is what that looks like.