Building for the modern web is really, really hard

The 80+ sessions covering web performance, security, and accessibility at Fluent 2018 won’t make building for the web easy, but they’ll definitely make it easier.

By Tammy Everts
March 21, 2018
Cubes, bricks, squares Cubes, bricks, squares (source: Pixabay)

When I started working on the web back in the mid-90s, I had no idea how easy we all had it.

Sure, our crappy 14.4 modems crashed roughly 6.2 times per hour. And those early days of all-grey backgrounds were kind of dull. But in terms of skill mastery, all you had to do was hack together some HTML, paste some copy, choose a font from the dazzling array of 12 fonts available to you, add an image or two, push it all live, restart your modem (again), grab a Snapple, watch that dancing baby GIF and try to figure out what all the fuss was about, and call it a day.

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The web has become mind-bogglingly complex

The average web page is creeping up on 4MB in size, according to the HTTP Archive. It contains hundreds of assets served from scores of different third (and fourth and fifth) parties, and it relies on a multitude of programming languages to function.

And that’s just the beginning.

As developers, designers, and UX folks, we’re tasked with so much more than just making these huge, complex pages function. We’re tasked with making them function on an ever-increasing number of browsers and devices, both mobile and desktop. (In their latest annual device fragmentation report, OpenSignal identified 3,997 distinct Android devices alone downloading their app.) We’re also tasked with making these pages function reliably and consistently, regardless of the user’s connection type—from blazing-fast broadband speeds of 160 Mbps, to spotty 2G in developing countries, to hotels with mysteriously and arbitrarily execrable bandwidth. (See below. Ahem.)

1 Mbps bandwidth in 2017
Figure 1. I experienced 1 Mbps bandwidth in 2017. Tell my story.

Most important: we have to make these huge, complex pages fast, safe, and accessible for everyone.

For almost a decade, I’ve been working deep in the world of web performance—but even from way down here in the trenches, I can tell you that while speed is a crucial pillar of the modern web, it’s just one pillar. Making the web fast without also making it accessible and secure is like building a high-performance race car—and then neglecting to install doors and a seatbelt.

The Fluent Conference focuses on web performance, accessibility, and security

Over the past several months, our Fluent Conference program committee has worked hard to develop a program of 80+ sessions that will give you the breadth and depth of knowledge you need to make the web truly performant for your users.

In the next couple of months, I’ll be writing separate posts that focus on each of Fluent’s pillars—performance, accessibility, and security—but for now, here’s a quick tour of some of the fantastic talks and speakers you can expect to see on our stages. If your goal is to develop a more robust personal toolkit so that you can help build a more robust web, then I can’t wait to see you in San Jose this June!


If you’re able to make it to the training sessions at the very beginning of Fluent, Tim Kadlec, Gareth Hughes, and Michael Gooding will deliver a two-day training session that focuses on debugging front-end performance.

During the main conference, perennial speaker favorite Maximiliano Firtman will be talking about hacking web performance. Katie Sylor-Miller will share a case study of how her team at Etsy uncovered and fixed mobile performance issues. Mark Zeman will explain how to identify which performance metrics are most relevant to understanding user experience (and how to make them faster). And Nic Jansma and Charlie Vazac will show you how to identify the third parties that are hurting your pages the most.


Our accessibility sessions offer a great mix of inspirational big-picture thinking with hands-on application.

Sarah Federman will share techniques for making accessibility a priority in your organization—through both top-down and grassroots efforts. Nicolas Steenhout will outline an accessibility testing workflow that can be integrated in your day-to-day coding or testing workflows. Juliana Gomez will demystify the trickiest WCAG standards so you don’t have to. She’ll share demos of common accessibility nightmares (like accordion menus, custom forms, modals, video players, and date pickers), and explain how you can make them accessible in the simplest ways possible.


Who should be responsible for ensuring and maintaining security excellence? According to Annie Lau, the answer is “Everyone.” She’ll be talking about how Trulia manages vulnerabilities through its bug bounty program and scales the responsibility of security across engineering, product, and business teams.

Michael Swieton will cover how the cryptographic ecosystem provides security for our applications, and help equip you to create, debug, and deploy your own applications. And Chetan Karande will share an analysis of more than a thousand publicly known Node.js vulnerabilities. He’ll explore common security mistakes made by Node.js package authors, and explain how you can prevent these issues in your own code.

Post topics: Web Programming