I feel the need – the need for speed
This week, I’m channeling the couch-jumping exuberance of Tom Cruise – minus the obscenity screaming and Scientology part – for page speed performance. Although, if you want me to scream at you, and you, and you too, to wear a mask, I’ll do that. But I won’t talk about Xenu. I will talk about Screaming Frog, but not now. Now is the time for speed. More specifically, the need for speed and how to get it.
Web performance predictions for 2021
If you want to get a glimpse into what we can expect from web performance in 2021, go read Simon Hearne’s web performance predictions article. He covers:
- the page experience update
- third-parties finally getting their act together
- the increase in serving from the “Edge”
- the impact of browser monopolies
- what HTTP/3 will and won’t do
Chrome Dev Summit 2020 and Core Web Vitals
A lot of attention was given to Core Web Vitals at the virtual Chrome Dev Summit 2020. The videos, which you can watch here, briefly talked about the metrics that matter most, the common issues they see with sites, and numerous ways to address them.
I watched all of the page experience and CSS presentations live and kept notes for topics that caught my attention. I then researched and expounded on their importance and how you can more fully optimize your site for Google’s Core Web Vitals in a new Coywolf Pro article.
Time to Say Goodbye to Google Fonts
Simon Wicki makes a compelling case that it’s time to stop linking to Google Fonts. Instead, we should be downloading and self-hosting them for better performance. He claims the old performance argument is not valid anymore.
Wicki’s sentiments were echoed by Gijo Varghese on WP Speed Matters. Varghese expands on why fonts should be self-hosted, answers if it’s legal to self-host them, and shares a method for self-hosting Google Fonts on WordPress.
WP Rocket adds a feature to fix a common CLS problem
In one of the Chrome Dev Summit presentations, the lack of a hardcoded height and width for images was identified as the most common cause of cumulative layout shifts (CLS). The exclusion of width and height from images is a carryover from web developers making images responsive. But as I explain in the new Pro article, the support for aspect ratio in all major browsers fixes that issue.
If you have manually added images – you didn’t use the Image block editor – and they don’t have a height and width, they will need to be updated. Fortunately, WP Rocket just updated its caching plugin to fix that for you automatically.
WP Rocket now has an option to add missing image dimensions to fix the problem on WordPress automatically.
Back/Forward cache may boost Core Web Vitals metrics
Philip Walton recently published an article on Back/Forward cache (bfcache) on web.dev. He describes it as:
a browser optimization that enables instant back and forward navigation. It significantly improves the browsing experience for users—especially those with slower networks or devices.
While bfcache sounds like a nice-to-have site feature, it may also improve the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) metrics for your site. He stated that CrUX would “soon be updated to treat bfcache restores as separate page visits in the dataset.” That means bfcache could be a double win for your site.
Pixelmator Pro adds support for exporting optimizing WebP images
A much-anticipated feature, exporting optimized WebP images, is coming to the next Pixelmator Pro version. The new feature will enable web designers and developers on macOS to switch from using JPG and PNG images to solely using the WebP image format for sites.
However, there are still some caveats to using WebP. WordPress still doesn’t support it natively, and to use WebP images on WordPress, you will need to use a plugin or add special code to
wp-config.php. Also, using WebP for the Featured Image on posts doesn’t appear to work even you use a plugin or add special code.
An existential take on performance
I interviewed Dries Depoorter, an artist that works with technology, in 2019. When we spoke, we talked about his latest project, an app called Die With Me that only lets you chat with people on phones with less than five percent battery. Now he has a new project call Shortlife
Shortlife is a device that displays the percentage of your life that is completed based on your life expectancy. While this may seem morose, I think it’s motivating. We are rarely mindful of the time we have left. I see Shortlife as a reminder of my mortality and the finite time I have left to live. It inspires me to make better choices with my time.
Good riddance 2020
I hope everyone has a restful holiday. The next time you’ll hear from me will be in 2021. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on the flippity flop!