Web Page Size is Vital

When I first learned how to program a computer, optimization was a big deal. Figuring out how to squeeze every bit of performance out of a subroutine was difficult but rewarding. Articles were frequently written about how to best go about optimizing source code.

In the late 1990s, I began working on my first web applications. Bandwidth was expensive, so we worked on ways to make our websites more compact. We compressed web pages and figured out ways to strip out whitespace. However, today websites have quite a bit going on in the front of the house. There’s a lot of JavaScript and CSS that gets passed to the browser, and as a result, web applications are transmitting more data than ever.

Tammy Everts writes a blog called Web Performance Today, where she follows trends in web application development. It is essential for web developers to pay attention to the amount of data they send to users and how that affects application performance.

Ms Everts has shown over and over that web pages are growing. She points out that the average web page has grown 186% since 2010, and it shows no sign of stopping. I believe that every responsible web developer owes it to himself1 to follow Ms Everts’ blog.

Please, fellow web developers, pay attention to how big your web pages are getting. Let’s reverse this trend.


  1. Or herself. 

Hypothes.is Web Annotation Tool

Hypothes.is LogoWhile working on the Philalethes E-Bulletin Online Reader, I came across a useful web-based annotation tool called Hypothes.is. It’s worth checking out. The tool uses a browser plugin to provide a number of cool features.

  • Annotation
  • Discussion
  • Tagging
  • Sharing
  • Privacy Control

It also provides an annotation stream that allows you to view public annotations as they’re being made all over the web.

I’ve installed the Hypothes.is WordPress plugin so you can experiment with Hypothes.is on this website. Please try it out!

Philalethes E-Bulletin Online Reader

Philalethes Society SealI began working on the Philalethes E-Bulletin in the Fall of 2013, and published the first issue in January of 2014. The E-Bulletin is published quarterly in EPUB and MOBI formats.

It’s been a great learning experience. Not only have I learned a lot about editing, but I’ve really had to dive into how electronic publishing works. The intricacies of electronic book formats have become well-known to me.

The Philalethes Society isn’t entirely comfortable with modern technology, however. Most complaints about the E-Bulletin came from those who didn’t have e-book readers and weren’t comfortable installing software on their PC to handle a new file format. Because of this, I built an online e-book reader specifically for the E-Bulletin.

The online e-book reader is based around the excellent EPUB.js library, with additional backend code written in PHP.

Click here to visit the Philalethes E-Bulletin Online Reader.

Small Team Software Change Management

GitHubUntil October, I’d been using a paid GitHub account to manage source code changes and issue tracking for private projects. GitHub is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) product providing a web-based interface for source control management and various project tracking tasks. Some people love it and some aren’t fond of it.

My software development clients are typically small companies wanting fairly simple web applications. They hire me because having a developer on staff doesn’t fit into their budget or business plan. They don’t usually care what the source code for their project looks like, but they do care about tracking issues.

Because of the scope of these applications, it’s rare that I work with other programmers. This meant that I wasn’t using any of the special features of GitHub for private code repositories, so in October I cancelled my subscription.

FreshBooksMy private repositories are now self-hosted, and I browse them using GitList, which bills itself as “an elegant and modern git repository viewer.” It looks nice, and I’ve got no complaints. For issue tracking, I use Freshbooks, a SaaS accounting system. With Freshbooks, I can not only keep track of bug reports and issues, but I can record time spent on bug reports, feature creep, and other client-related issues.

GitList and Freshbooks isn’t a perfect solution. At some point, I will be working with another developer, and we will need a way to track bugs and issues internally. When that happens, I plan to deploy Gitolite and find some new issue-tracking solution.

By the way, another reason I stopped using paid GitHub features is because they’ve already made plenty of money, and I’m not sure they’re doing the right things with all of that money.

I’m curious about what others are using. How does your incredibly small team track code changes and issues? Are all of your software issues internal, or are you developing for clients? I’d love to hear some ideas.

Bootstrap and WordPress

I’ve used Twitter Bootstrap many times in web applications. It really makes building an application interface fast and easy, primarily because I don’t have to worry much about design. Bootstrap makes things a lot easier for a developer who doesn’t do good design work.

Speaking of design work, this website is not very pretty at the moment. I want to make it look better, so I’ve been looking at different WordPress themes. A theme based on Bootstrap seemed like a good idea. That way, the appearance of my website would match the applications I’ve built for my clients. Nice, right? I came across WordPress Bootstrap from 320 Press and thought it might look good.

I decided to pursue other themes, however. My initial concern was that the website didn’t look any better with WordPress Bootstrap, but I also realized that perhaps Bootstrap wasn’t such a good fit for WordPress. Fränk Klein makes some great arguments against a Bootstrap-backed WordPress theme in his article, Why Bootstrap is a Bad Fit for WordPress Themes.

Arnesonium.com doesn't look any better with a Bootstrap theme.

Arnesonium.com doesn’t look any better with a Bootstrap theme.

PunchlinePDX Event Manager

PunchlinePDX

PunchlinePDX is a slow-motion video booth for events and parties based out of Portland, Oregon. Earlier this year, I helped them develop event management software that would allow them to upload and curate video.

This was their first experience hiring a software developer, so I had the opportunity to walk them through the entire process. We started by outlining requirements and coming up with a solid plan with application screens, functions, and things to meet their business needs. We then brainstormed additional features and came up with something pretty amazing.

These are a few of the interesting things we came up with:

  • Cloud-backed storage for all videos
  • Text messaging interface
  • Smart social media sharing
  • Contact management
  • Event and sharing privacy

The best part was the testing process. While I ran them through their new software, they made slow-motion video of me and used the software to upload and manage it. Check it out!

You should seriously consider booking these guys for your holiday party.

Website: Bruno San Rafael’s Home for Former Trapeze

Back in 2012, I had the pleasure of working with my good friend Joel Barker on his amazing project, Bruno San Rafael’s Home for Former Trapeze. This project is a collaboration between Joel, a bunch of musicians, a photographer, and a web developer (me!). My contribution was probably the smallest of the bunch, but it was a lot of fun.

Please check out the website by clicking on the screenshot below. If you use “View Source” in your browser, you can see every line of code I used to finish the site. It’s one simple, medium-length monolithic HTML file with JavaScript and CSS thrown in.

Bruno San RafaelI now work with Joel regularly at Word Lions, where I write and do a little more website development.