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Guest Post: Can you combine creative design and performance budgets?

Creativity and budgeting—these two go hand in hand. Developers are striving to operate within their resources, while delivering the best solutions for their clients. Yet with the sheer nature of creativity and the ability to counter challenges resourcefully, design agencies are able to bring projects to fruition by utilizing the performance budget.

What is a performance budget?

Performance budgets operate with the idea of setting a maximum page weight, often in kilobytes. This not only helps to regulate the amount of bytes, but establishes a consistency across the whole project as well as cultivates a fluid, yet structured creative process. While it can be challenging to remain within target, developers and designers find this method helpful for keeping track of the budget, optimizing the concept of freedom within boundaries.

By nature, developers and designers enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to make something work — this is a huge part of the drive that fuels creative agencies. Most importantly, as developers seek to focus on increased accessibility, it keeps the onus on performance quality. Fortunately, implementing a performance budget can be simple, provided it’s established from the outset, since its very framework is foundation to the entire project. Here’s how to do it:

Plan ahead

Developers are able to think about projects and timelines in a linear and non-linear manner, helping them to anticipate any particular problems that may arise during the developing process and how to tackle them. It is essential to lay these out when working with a performance budget, not only outlining a schedule, but leaving room to tackle any challenges or add some innovative new ideas in the meantime.

Give and take

Developers can work the budget more effectively with client demands, provided they lay out the options beforehand. For example, if a client requests a large amount of hi-res content, which exceeds the performance budget, then the developer can compensate by withdrawing another feature of the page, enhance it, or not include it in the finished product at all. This may seem like a hefty compromise, but it actually helps filter out all the excess features, which are surplus to a site and allow the developer and client to finish with the highest caliber content.

Collaborate and be open

While at times the relationship can be challenging to maintain, clients and developers work well together because:

  1. Clients usually have a vision of what they wish to achieve
  2. Developers have the vision of how that goal can come into being, the resources it requires, and what might and might not work.

It’s important to be open and transparent when making decisions together, and a performance budget enables both parties to stay within limits and serves as an effective reminder — a rule cannot be argued where opinions can. Begin the discussion early and always keep each other up to date on progress so that the process is transparent and comprehensive, but don’t be afraid to take the helm from time and time.

Establish what is important and what isn’t

As mentioned before, a performance budget ensures quality because it demands an economical approach. While some websites thrive on an overload of effects and content, often deterring the viewer, many users prefer clear, crisp, and clean interfaces which are easily navigated and which deliver solid content. A performance budget won’t allow for excess, resulting in a high standard of development. At the same time, it encourages a little innovative thinking — for instance, developers can use tactics like replacing icon fonts with other fonts, using one display face, and keeping things to a minimum without sacrificing the aesthetic. A little lateral thinking is what will lead to an overall successful project, which should satisfy client and developer alike, saving huge amounts of time and resources in the process.

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