Why web pages are getting fatter!

Web pages are getting bigger. Not in area, but in file size.
The HTTP Archive has measured the increase over a year to be around 25%. In November, last year, the average size of a web page was 626k, in the same month this year, it is 784k.
Slow websites ultimately lead to a poor user experience, and whether you use a web designer or roll your own, it’s vital that you understand what can bloat a page.
So why are they getting bigger and why should we worry about it?
This blog at Pingdom has made the statistics much more digestible.
It’s true that broadband speeds are getting increasingly faster but, also increasingly, we are now using many different ways to connect to the internet, and speed of your website is not only a factor in search engine ranking, but, and more importantly, users are much more likely to give up on a slow-loading website.
With the massive uptake of mobile devices that connect to the internet and wifi in nearly every way we turn, we are more likely to be browsing the web away from our homes and offices than ever before, and while mobile connectivity is widespread, it is far from fast in many places. And this is where it will hit bloated pages hardest.
And there’s no excuse. Websites are not growing organically like mushrooms. It’s quite simply the people who build them, and unless we take heed of this fattening trend, we’ll end up with, quite simply, websites that are obese and ultimately dysfunctional. Now there’s a parody I won’t dwell on.
According to the data, the biggest culprit is JavaScript. Web designers use JavaScript for all sorts of behavioural niceties, and the code is often heavy and runs in the browser. Snippets that we pick up from services like Google Analytics, Trip Advisor, Twitter and Facebook, all use JavaScript to provide interactive content, and while a web designer would be conscious of overloading a site with scripts like this, a DIYer might not know where to stop.
CSS is the second biggest culprit and this is indeed an irony. CSS (cascading style sheets) were introduced over a decade ago to bring new, leaner layouts to web designs. CSS has indeed reduced a lot of the bloat that web pages used to have, but it is easy to abuse, and very easy to end up with far more code than you need. Again, snippets freely available on the web can be cut and pasted in by DIYers without a thought for the extra load it puts on a page. Even content management systems built by professionals, can have this added in by users unaware of the consequences.
That images are also cited as partly responsible for the bloat, can be attributed to two things, a lack of thought for those with lower connection speeds and a general trend towards large picture use as a striking visual.
Other culprits are content itself and Flash. The revolution in content management systems are helping website owners bulk-load content onto their pages without thinking of breaking it up, which again makes it more readable for your humans.
Flash? Well I’m genuinely surprised and aghast that Flash is on the increase. While it has it’s place, It really shouldn’t be on the rise. (in my opinion)
The solution is compromise and awareness. Know that page size matters and only use code, scripts and content that is required for good user experience. And if in doubt, leave it out!

Have you added loads of features to your website without realising it could be slowing it down? Let us know in the comments section below, or contact us if you think your website needs to go an a diet!

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