We look to have consistent and sensible development principles across our digital properties for two fundamental reasons:
- They help us deliver excellent user experiences.
- They reduce the cost of development and maintenance.
Our approach to development
We consider a number of aspects in our approach to development. Those listed below are not exhaustive, and we also support other areas (such as accessibility).
The performance of a website is an important area to consider, as it is a factor of the overall user experience. There are many elements that can impact on performance, but as a summary we consider the following:
- front-end performance
- back-end performance
- integration with other systems
As an example of why performance is so important to the RNLI, we can look to our End Drowning and Flood app projects. These served audiences in areas where signal is poor or where data may be expensive. Other users may be on lower-powered devices. By optimising performance, we can better serve these kinds of audiences, as well as providing a better general experience to all users.
We do not wish to place overly heavy restrictions on how partners should code. However, it is important that the following general principles are followed:
- Consider the size of the page that the user has to download: Are images limited when unnecessary? Are assets compressed and minified? Has browser caching been utilised?
- Content rendering (of immediately visible content) should be prioritised, not blocked by assets loading.
- Where integration with other systems may introduce a delay, ensure that this does not prevent other content rendering.
- Consider caching at a product level (for example Sitecore) if appropriate.
To reduce the time and budget required to develop extensions to existing (or upcoming) digital sites, we think in terms of components rather than pages. By defining a collection of reusable front-end components, developers can follow coding standards, ensure consistency of brand, and reduce build time.
This links to the RNLI’s overall technology principle of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This Creative Toolkit is part of this approach.
Catering for different devices and the future
As we consider users’ performance and accessibility needs, we should also consider the range of devices used to access our properties, both now and in the future. In order to make our content future-friendly, we will develop websites to be as screen and device-agnostic as possible, using concepts like progressive enhancement where we can. We will provide a baseline experience which may be enhanced by the user’s tools, rather than taking content and features away from people.
More on development
The free book Designing for Performance by Lara Hogan provides advice on many of the above topics if you would like to find out more.