Are You Aware of the Weight of Your Web Page?
Within web design, there is an understanding that you need to be aware of the potential weight of a web page before a site can go live. The heavier the page, the longer it takes to load leading to users becoming frustrated and having a negative experience that could ultimately stop them from coming back.
The actual average weight of a page has increased over the years, but this is seen as being in line with advances in technology and faster connections. Previously, the average weight was 1MB, but that has now gone up to 3MB, and there is every chance that it could rise further.
Of course, as this is the average, it does mean that there are websites out there that weigh more than this, but there is a pretty good chance that they will suffer from a high bounce rate, which is always a negative thing to deal with.
But then, why are they getting heavier? The answer is partly linked to design trends and people being capable of getting away with more when it comes to what they can put on individual pages. Take for example the explosion in use of video on the home page, and in particular with the header image. This is something that is now all over the Internet, but video is heavy even when it is parsed down as much as possible so that the loading experience is not hampered too much.
Also, people have a tendency to use more creative fonts that can also be heavier in weight, and then there are various plugins that bring in data from elsewhere and display it on your website. All of this makes a difference, but it often does so quietly and without anybody being aware of what is going on.
However, looking at the way in which pages are created, it is also interesting to note that the load times have stayed pretty static over the years. They have only increased ever so slightly and certainly nowhere near the increase of the average weight. Clearly, this is due to the way that technology has kept pace with these changes. If you cast your mind back to when you first came onto the Internet and compare it to how things are today, then you will see for your own self how this is something that has completely changed.
So, if technology has kept pace, then why is looking at the average weight of a page so important?
The answer is more obvious than you may think, and it is all to do with where this is all heading.
For some experts, there is the belief that it is going to increase further to at least 4MB within the next 18 months. There is the fear that technology will be squeezed and have to try to adapt to fit in with the changes as people demand more from websites and the information that they can access in an instant. People want speed. They do not want to hang around waiting for a website to load, so there is more emphasis on speed rather than power in technology, and that is where a problem can occur.
There is the real possibility that websites could almost outstrip the capabilities of technology to provide the user with a pleasant experience. There is every possibility that more people will become frustrated with a website and blame it on the technology when it is the actual website that is the problem.
What is required is a re-think about what should actually appear on a page and whether or not it does contribute to the overall experience. In the past, using Flash on websites was seen as being cool, but it had a negative impact on the way in which the site would load resulting in people walking away and Flash being disbanded in the near future. It was too heavy and it would still cause some problems today for some people.
That in itself is a lesson that we should remember or else we could repeat the same mistake, but this time it is connected to the need for more value for your money. Yes, you should always want to provide the user with everything they need on your site, but to do it in as fancy a way as possible is not going to be the wisest decision that you have ever made.