Chapter 2. Performance and Responsive Web Design

Responsive Web Design is a powerful tool, and is being rapidly adopted by many organizations. Based on my latest tests, roughly 11-12% of websites are already responsive (or at least fluid). This quick and massive adoption is good news for users, as websites will become easier to use on mobile devices. However, it also means that the early implementations have not had time to mature and work out some core issues. More specifically, it means that implementations do not consider performance.

The Woes of Cellular

The impact of mobile extends far beyond design, and one other area it challenged is the world of web performance. For decades, we’ve witnessed a consistent and rapid improvement in our connection speeds. We’ve gone from slow dial-up modems, intermittently connected at 14,400 bits per second, to high-speed fiber connections reaching gigabit speeds. Akamai data shows that the average connection speed in the US grew 2.5 times in the last six years, reaching almost 10 Mbps in late 2013. While many users still rely on slow connections to access the Internet, fixed connection speed is on a constant improvement streak.

Cellular connections, however, change this picture. While having connectivity everywhere is extremely powerful, cellular bandwidth is typically 3–4 times slower than fixed lines, often leading to poor experiences. Even worse, latency on cellular networks is often 10 times longer than fixed lines! Combined with congestion ...

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