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Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

Feb 6

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008  RssIcon

Skinny or Bloated?In Ireland recent years have seen progress in the availability of broadband services (in July 2007 it was up to 15.5% penetration, according to the European Commission). However that does not mean that dial-up as an access route to the web has gone the way of the Dodo. CLUAS.com's experience is that about 7% of our visitors in 2007 visited the site via a dial-up modem (based on Google's web traffic analytics service we use). If you ask me, many website and bloggers targeting Irish readers would do well to keep it in mind that a decent chunk of their readers are still dependant on a dial up connection to access the ould internets, and that flabbing out their site (or blog) with hefty images and bandwidth choking Flash is going to be counter-productive.

But it's not just about ensuring sites & blogs are quick and snappy for unfortunates stuck with dialup modems. Those of us with bandwidth connections are also sensitive to download times. And arguably more so than someone using a dialup modem who, in order to have any chance of maintaining some sanity, is obliged to demonstrate super human levels of patience. Having a broadband connection means our patience goes out the window: expectations of loading times for any web page are hugely raised, God help a site that is slow to load when we have that big juicy broadband pipe at our disposal. Bloggers and webmasters: ignore this at your peril, especially if you are trying to reach music fans (as their broadband connection may already be under heavy pressure at the moment they try and visit your site considering they are more likely than most to be listening to streaming music or downloading recent MP3 or digital video purchases).

So how are the main Irish music blogs and websites doing in terms of keeping the flab off? Who within the well established eco-system of Irish music sites is going to test the patience of their readers, be they in dialup hell or broadband bliss? And who is successfully keeping the weight down? To get some answers I checked out the size of the main page of over 30 established Irish music sites and blogs. As a starting point I took the 26 blogs longlisted for the category of "Best Music Blog" in this year's "Irish Blog Awards" (two of which I am pleased to point out are from the CLUAS blog family - French Letter and Key Notes). To this list I then added in another bunch of music sites picked out at my own discretion, the sites I added were: State.ie, Hotpress.com, Thumped.com, the Thrill Pier blog, Muse.ie, Phantom FM and the CLUAS.com home page.

The table below ranks all these sites in terms of their total download size. For all sites I have also broken out the "payloads" for each different 'component category' that typically makes up a web page, i.e. the HTML part, images, Javascript files, Flash files and CSS files (for the non-geeks among you a CSS file - Cascading Style Sheet - is used to style and position web page content).

There is a massive variation in the list. The lightest site steps in at a lean 97 KB (that'll be CLUAS.com's home page, thank you) and the heaviest being a broadband busting 2.1MB (stand up Egocentric). In terms of time, a 1Mbps broadband connection would take over 30 seconds to download the 2.1 megabytes that constitute Egocentric's main page (only the hardiest digital souls are advised to click the link). It doesn't bear thinking about but the 7% out there still on a 56 kbs dial up connection would have to wait for over 8 minutes. There should be a law against that. Or something.

Anyways I've clustered the results into 4 colour coded categories, based on overall page size:

  • Less than 250 KB: ("Optimal balance of content and page size")
  • 251 KB to 500 KB: ("Total nightmare for dialup users")
  • 501 KB to 999 KB: ("High risk of testing the patience of broadband users")
  • Greater than 1 MB: ("Clinical cases of inexcusable hyper cyber-obesity")

Those falling into the orange and red categories would do well to assess their site's content and see what they can shave off to reduce the payload. Three tactics I'd recommend are:

  1. Reduce the size of images: A quick glance in the 'Images' column in the table below confirms that it is images which carry the most blame for the bloated sites. Using even images with slightly reduced dimensions can reduce an image file size by 75%. It is vital to understand that reducing the size of the image as it appears on the page does not automatically mean the file size is reduced. To reduce the file size the image must be 'resampled' to reflect the reduced dimensions of the image. Finally, there is little point pursuing the next two suggestions if this first one is not addressed.
  2. Reduce the number of blog entries on blog home page: The obese blogs should also reduce the number of blog entries listed on the blog's home page. Take Stuart Ballie's blog for example (weighing in at 1.8 MB). His has a massive number of entries appearing on his blog home page. If his blog were configured so that the older half of those blog entries were systematically moved to an archive page, the blog would probably leap out of the depths of the red zone and into the healthier echelons of the yellow.
  3. Activate 'server side' compression: 4 of the 13 sites in the orange and red zones do not have automatic file compression activated on their web servers (for more info on this see note 2 after the table). This can help reduce the size of the HTML file but, to be honest, the effect on the overall payload of any heavy site will be insignificant if the excessive image files are not first addressed.

These sort of steps can also have longer term benefits when you consider that an iPhone-inspired era of sophisticated mobile web access is on its way. You can bet someone trying to access your site via their future all-singing, all dancing mobile phone - be it a snazzy iPhone or a more modest non-Apple device - won't be prepared to wait 30+ seconds for a 1 or 2 megabyte web page to download.

Ireland's Top Music Site's & Blogs
(ranked in terms of page size)

Rank

Site / Blog

Components of webpage (in KB) Total page size
HTML Images Javascript CSS Flash
1 CLUAS (*) 16 39 39 3 0 97 KB
2 Test Industries 17 82 1 17 0 117 KB
3 Music Road 16 92 43 2 8 161 KB
4 Thrill Pier 16 88 68 4 1 177 KB
5 On the Record   24 97 42 26 0 189 KB
6 French Letter 19 107 85 13 0 225 KB
7 Key Notes 21 116 85 13 0 236 KB
8 Hot Press (*) 61 141 21 24 0 248 KB
9 Sinead Gleeson 18 227 0 7 1 253 KB
10 Thumped 7 155 78 32 0 271 KB
11 Una Rocks 24 173 89 4 3 293 KB
12 Phantom FM (*) 52 196 34 13 8 303 KB
13 House is a Feeling (*) 71 249 24 2 0 346 KB
14 Kilkenny Music (*) 49 179 48 26 52 354 KB
15 MP3 Hugger 24 168 146 4 40 382 KB
16 State 7 302 82 31 0 422 KB
17 Nialler9 18 233 112 22 42 426 KB
18 The Red scrapbook 19 328 89 4 0 439 KB
19 Muse (*) 41 278 106 19 30 474 KB
20 Indie Limerick 17 392 91 4 28 532 KB
21 The Torture Garden 16 534 28 4 2 584 KB
22 Cubik Music 29 148 34 12 378 601 KB
23 I Prefer the Obscure Mix 17 583 33 5 1 638 KB
24 The Indie Hour 16 781 33 5 2 837 KB
25 Asleep on the Compost Heap 19 808 69 4 0 900 KB
26 Matt Vinyl 26 704 71 4 195 1.0 MB
27 Magoo (*) 44 1044 16 11 1 1.1 MB
28 Cheebah 22 1116 27 16 0 1.2 MB
29 Off the Rocker (*) 55 1517 21 9 3 1.6 MB
30 Stuart Bailie (*) 216 1568 1 0 0 1.8 MB
31 Donal O’Caoimh (*) 36 1746 149 8 0 1.9 MB
32 Egoeccentric 30 1838 194 4 23 2.1 MB
(*) These sites/blogs do not have compression activated on their web server, for more detail on server-side compression see note 2 below.

Notes on the above:

  1. Figures above are the sizes of each site's main page on the evening of 4 February 2008 (according to the Web Page Analyser service). It just represents a snapshot in time. The sizes above are dynamic and will fluctuate whenever new content is added to, or older content removed from, these sites' home page.
  2. Of the 32 sites in the above list, 22 are configured so that text files (such as HTML) are compressed by the webserver before being sent to the requesting visitor (whose browser then automatically decompresses them when the file is received). The advantage of this being that the amount of data to be downloaded is reduced, the reduction in size of a HTML file that can be expected with such compression is usually in the order of 70-80%. In such cases it is the size of the file after it has been compressed that is cited in the table above. The 10 sites who do not have this function activated (indicated above with an asterisk) are strongly advised to do so (Aside: the CLUAS home page is not compressed - yet still manages to top the list - but the two CLUAS blogs in the above list have compression activated).
  3. The above list does not include the 'Digital Sole' blog (one of the 26 blogs longlisted for the Best Music Blog at the Irish Blog Awards 2007) as it was inaccessible at the time I was checking the sizes of the blogs / websites.
  4. CLUAS.com's three entries in the list above are all well tucked into the green zone. Hooray!

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Location: Blogs Parent Separator Promenade

14 comment(s) so far...


Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

Yeeeep...here's me saving all my images as web optimised and trying to stick to one image per main page post...shocked am I to be so deeply in the red.

*scurries off in search of bloggable lycra-control-pants*

By Off Her Rocker on   Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

Hi this is an interesting article. I never really thought of my blog --Asleep on the compost heap -- in that light, I have a few external photos and not much else. Gonna look into slimfasting the fecker. Nice article!

By gardenhead on   Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

I'm sure I can come back and beat Egoeccentric if I really try...

By Donal on   Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

this is a problem i have brought up with other members of the egoeccentric team and has fallen on deaf ears , maybe now after we have been named and shamed they might listen

By Ctrl/Alt/Delete on   Thursday, February 07, 2008

Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

EgoEccentric damnit. Its punny.

I suppose we better get working on that so.

By Evil Bob on   Thursday, February 07, 2008

Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

On a slightly seperate note I would also like to thank Cluas for strongly urging people not to go to our page. We need all the support we can get and there is no such thing as bad publicity as well everybody knows.

By Evil Bob on   Thursday, February 07, 2008

Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

Brilliant. Gerry McGovern would be proud of you.

Heaven knows why I was nominated in the first place but anyone who's reading blogs on their I-Phone needs their head examined. Bleedin shapers. I use my phone for calling people. No photos, no radio, no mp3's. You can probably tell that I'm a bit of a traditionalist and a Luddite to boot.

It does however raise the question of who I'm trying to reach. To be honest I've never thought about it, I just blog to kill some time in the evenings. When I started it I didn't expect anyone to read it and I'm not entirely sure that many people do. It's an indulgence on my part rather than a service to music fans. Most bloggers seem to blog to plug a product or service that they offer e.g. a radio show or their journalistic efforts.

Anyhow your criticism is quite fair and sheds light on an aspect of blogging that I had never considered. I'd like to think I'll do something about it but at the end of the day I'm a bit of a lazy shite.

Nice one Eoghan,

Matt.

By Matt Vinyl on   Thursday, February 07, 2008

Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

By the way, this page here is taking about 40 seconds to load on a broadband connection. It was the same with your homepage. When I posted the last comment it took about a minute to load.

By Matt Vinyl on   Thursday, February 07, 2008

Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

Then I checked egocentrics (the worst offender) main page and it loaded in less than a second. I'm not sure if your server is acting up at the moment.

Later, Matt

By Matt Vinyl on   Thursday, February 07, 2008

Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

Your skinny as hell! :P

By Tibi Puiu on   Saturday, February 09, 2008

Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

It's loading up quick as bejaysus today. Big up. Matt

By Matt Vinyl on   Sunday, February 10, 2008

Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

I was wondering why all those people were chanting 'You fat bastid' at me. I reckon 700k is about as slim as I'll get, I'll have to buy some MC Hammer trousers.

By Matt Vinyl on   Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

I love how you even gave a health warning to Dry County's link suggestion...

By Off Her Rocker on   Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Re: Irish Music sites: The skinny & the bloated

Hey Matt, sorry to hear that the CLUAS site was loading slowly for you earlier in the week. That could have been a problem on the site itself, or with your internet connection. I always keep an eye on these sort of things - and they have happened in the past - but I was not aware of any such problems in the last week. With your Feb 11th comment it look like it's now loading fine for you... Your own blog I see has slimmed down from 1MB to 700KB. Nice work, but you'll need to knock back a bit more Slimfast to get into the Yellow zone...

By eoghan on   Monday, February 11, 2008

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