I’m in my second month here at Atomic, and I’m really starting to learn the ropes. Before joining the team, I worked for one of the largest liquidation companies in the U.S. There, I served as the client contact for questions on everything from thermostats to waffle makers.

Since I’ve had to communicate about so many different products and industries, jumping into the web design world wasn’t too much of a stretch. (I’m even starting to learn some code!)

My experience has taught me that no matter what type of project you’re trying to manage, the qualities that separate the so-so project managers from the truly awesome ones are the same. Here they are:

• Foresight. I don’t mean looking into a crystal ball—I’m talking about anticipating clients’ needs. That means doing research before your initial meeting to understand their industry, pulling design inspiration from similar sites, and suggesting ways to make their end product as great as possible—before they even have to ask.

• Leadership. This is an obvious one, but I can’t stress it enough. Research shows that we form first impressions in about 7 seconds. So make it clear from the start that you’re in charge. Projecting leadership puts clients at ease, and helps lay the foundation for a great relationship going forward.

• Organization. When you juggle as many projects as we do, you need a system. I maintain careful records of all client information in email, in folders on my computer, and in hard copy on my desk. That way, I’m never without the stuff I need.

• Communication. Being a PM is more than just making sure people meet their deadlines. I also serve as a kind of translator: explaining web developer jargon in plain English to clients, then conveying client requests back to our team. You’ve got to speak everyone’s language, and speak it well.

• Pragmatism. When you work with a team as creative as Atomic, ideas can occasionally get carried away. It’s my job to bring people back down to earth. That means keeping everyone focused on achieving milestones, meeting deadlines, and exceeding customers’ expectations.

• Empathy. Sometimes clients come to us unsure of exactly what they need. And that’s totally okay. Good PMs help clients understand their options—and don’t lose it when clients change their minds. That builds trust. And it makes communication easier when issues come up.

In fact, if I had to boil down these skills even further, I’d say they could be expressed in just two words: focus and trust. Cultivate these traits, and you’ll pull off projects with ease, whether you’re dealing with Beanie Babies, spy cameras, or golf clubs. (Trust me, I know.)

Need a web project taken off your hands? Leave it to Atomic to get the job done.

We’re always hearing how our connected world has made us crave immediacy. We follow breaking news events as they unfold. Share where we are and what we’re doing with friends and strangers. And get antsy when we’re away from our trusty screens.

So it’s no surprise that we’re also pretty impatient when it comes to waiting for webpages to load. A study by KISSmetrics showed that 40 percent of people will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to appear. A mere one-second delay can translate into a 7 percent loss in online sales. And lousy site performance can even cast a shadow on users’ perceptions of online brands.

The idea of optimizing site speed as a component of SEO hasn’t really caught on yet. Google incorporated page speed into its search algorithm in 2010, but for now it affects only about 1% of queries. But the concept is sure to explode once companies realize how much milliseconds matter.

To stay ahead of the curve, developers should get in the habit of coding with speed in mind. Here are a few ways how:

• Use a caching program. Many content management systems use plugins to manage code (for example, WordPress uses Super Cache). This means much of the content is premade, instead of being created on the fly, which can take longer to serve.

• Sniff out problem code. Malformed code can mean longer load times. For example, we had a site that loaded product data one by one instead of all at once. We consolidated the code—taking load time from 32 seconds (horrible) to about 4.

Programs like Xdebug can help you figure out what code is taking longest to execute, or where your code gets repetitive. When dealing with PHP, APC and FastCGI offer server-side optimization for better code handling.

• Try some visual trickery. You can make a site appear to load faster by loading only critical elements first. Say you have a Twitter feed in your homepage footer. The user isn’t going to see this immediately, so why hold up the entire page just to fetch Twitter? Allow it to load after your main content, and you’ll reduce perceived load time.

• Upgrade your hardware. If you’ve optimized your code and are still seeing snail-like load times, check for 100-percent CPU/memory usage—it may be time for a new server. You can also use a service like CloudFront, which hosts your site on different servers across the globe, routing the user to the closest server available.

We won’t say no to a feature that’s critical to a client’s site. But it’s important for developers to consider the tradeoffs between creating cool, but code-heavy features—and delivering the best user experience possible. Because this issue isn’t going away. We may have been more patient in the dial-up days—but we also hadn’t imagined all the cool things websites were capable of.

As the pipe expands, so will the complexity of websites. And users will demand better and better experiences. For developers, keeping up means constantly discovering ways to cut back. If you’re like me, that’s an exciting challenge.

Are sluggish page speeds holding you back? Call Atomic, and we’ll get your site in the fast lane.

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