Strong essences are kept in small bottles

What is website obesity and do you suffer from it?

Max Emelianov
Lose weight concept image via Shutterstock

How large is your website? I’m not talking about the sitemap or number of articles. I’m talking about page size. Have you stopped to think about it lately?

In the 90s, the average size of a web page was 14.1 kilobytes – that’s smaller than most Word Documents. To be fair, this was largely due to restrictions on network technology at the time. Anything larger than the average meant having to sit through painstaking load times. Then the Internet experienced a boom.

Suddenly, networking technology jumped ahead several generations, and web browsers could easily render pages upwards of two megabytes in size. It seemed like a dream come true for webmasters. They could make their pages as large as they wanted (within reason), and people could still load them.

The thing about that line of thinking is that it was – and still is – a dangerous trap. That’s especially true today, with the advent of mobile devices. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Google uses load time as a determinant of quality and uses it as a signal for ranking.
  2. Mobile devices often don’t have as much bandwidth as desktops, and hence aren’t as capable of rendering large websites.
  3. As an addendum to the above, larger websites often render extremely poorly on smartphones and tablets, which offer a smaller-screen browsing experience than desktops.
  4. Mobile devices have overtaken desktops as the primary means by which people browse the Internet. Any website that offers a poor browsing experience is thus alienating a large portion of its audience.

These factors together represent a very compelling argument in favor of trimming the fat off of your website. Trouble is, a lot of webmasters aren’t really sure how to do that. Since 1990, the average size of a web page has ballooned up to almost two megabytes.Yikes.

SEE ALSO: Why are websites getting fatter?

We haven’t even got to the worst part. As noted by web design expert Maciej Cegłowski, publishers and large websites don’t seem particularly interested in fixing the problem. The sites and advisories they release about cutting down on page bloat are, ironically, some of the most bloated pieces of content on the web.

As a result, it’s your job to fix the problems with your site. It falls to you to ensure your pages are slim, speedy, and slick. But how do you accomplish that?

Steps you can take to avoid website obesity

  • Use rich media only in moderation. As a good rule of thumb, ask yourself if the media you’re using actually adds anything to your content. Do you really need that Flash animation of a dancing, singing hippo, or is it just needless fat?
  • Optimize CSS and JavaScript files so that they don’t end up full of excessive bloat.
  • Keep the text on your site concise: never say in a paragraph what you could in a single sentence.
  • Eliminate resource-hungry advertisements. To date, they’re one of the leading causes of page bloat, and they often add virtually nothing of value to the user experience. There’s a reason Apple has started blocking ads on iOS.
  • Embrace minimalist web design. People aren’t interested in bells and whistles. They want to know what your business can offer them.
  • Use a tool like Google’s Speed Index to tell you how quickly your page loads – and which elements are crippling load time.
  • When you do use rich media such as images, optimize them.
  • Don’t pile yourself up with frameworks and tools when a single application is all you need. Most sites don’t need twenty different systems running their backend.

“Let’s preserve the web as the hypertext medium it is, the only thing of its kind in the world, and not turn it into another medium for consumption, like we have so many examples of already,” Ceglowski said in a recent presentation on website obesity. “Let’s commit to the idea that as computers get faster, and as networks get faster, the web should also get faster. Let’s commit to the idea that as computers get faster, and as networks get faster, the web should also get faster.”

“I don’t care about bloat because it’s inefficient. I care about it because it makes the web inaccessible,” he continued. “Keeping the Web simple keeps it awesome.”

Wise words, no?

Max Emelianov
Max Emelianov started HostforWeb in 2001. In his role as HostforWeb’s CEO, he focuses on teamwork and providing the best support for his customers while delivering cutting-edge web hosting services.

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