posted on October 20, 2009 20:00
A pet peeve of mine is bloated websites: site with pages that are so stuffed with images and widgets that they take too long to download, even on broadband. Over our 10 years of operations CLUAS .com has continually tried to keep things lean and mean when it comes to page size (indeed CLUAS, as far as I am aware, remains Ireland's lightest – and hence fastest – music website).
Back in 2008 I had a good old rant about bloated Irish websites (specifically about Music and Technology blogs). Another indulgent rant is long overdue, this time I've fixed my attention on the winners at the recent 2009 Irish Web Awards. Are the best Irish websites of 2009 a lean and mean bunch, or are they a morbidly obese bunch? Read on...
The table below presents the results of an analysis of all 21 sites that won an award at the Irish web awards in terms their page size as reflected in:
- the total size of their home page, and
- the total number of files that need to be downloaded (also know as number of "HTTP requests") to create the page.
The 3 colour-coded categories in the table correspond as follows:
- "The Skinny": ("Optimal balance of page size and http requests")
- The Bloated: ("Just too much going on in terms of page size and http requests")
- "The Bonkers": ("Inexcusably massive number of HTTP requests coupled with an utterly obese page size")
The Irish Web Award 2009 winners, categorised by payload
Seeing a whole load of data listed in a table is one thing. Presenting it in a chart is another, and can often make it easier to understand what is going on across a diverse set of data. So I plotted the results of each individual website on a chart in an effort to extract some more immediate and meaningful results from this analysis. The chart (see it below, where each dot represents one of the websites) has the number of HTTP request along the X-axis, the total size of the home page on the Y-axis. The general trend of the plotted data (that'll be the blue line rising gently upwards, my Leaving Cert Physics teacher would be proud of me) confirms what you'd expect, i.e. that the greater the number of HTTP requests a web page makes, the larger the size of that web page. However it's also easy to pick out from the chart which sites are skinny (hello to the sites that managed to squeeze into the box way down there in the most bottom left part of the graph) and which are bloated. And then there are those outlying sites which are just just barking when it comes to page size and number of HTTP requests...
Pity your poor browser - and internet connection – if you hit one of these 'bonkers' sites. For these 6 sites we're talking an average payload of 1.17 megabytes of data to be downloaded via an average of 104 HTTP requests!? Take the worst offender in terms of page size – danceireland.ie. Their home page is made up of 2MB of data (I repeat: 2 megabytes) to be downloaded. If you're on an iPhone and visit their home page, this single page will consume 7% of the daily bandwidth your phone company has allocated you (based on the monthly limit of 1GB of data afforded by O2 to iPhone customers in Ireland). One single solitary web page consuming 7% of your daily download allowance? Truly. Madly. Deeply. Bonkers.
The 8 'bloated' award winners? They are only somewhat better than their bonkers brethren. Between them they impose an average payload on visitors of 455 KB of files to be downloaded via an average of 70 HTTP requests.
But it's hats off to the 6 'skinny' sites (that'll be 5 of the 2009 Irish Web Award winners plus gatecrasher CLUAS.com) who all manage to keep their page size to less than 300kb while keeping the number of HTTP requests to less than 50. Between them they average a modest 265 KB of files to be downloaded per page via an average of 31 HTTP requests. Needless to say, thanks to our ongoing dietary efforts, CLUAS is among these 8 skinny sites, and our page size of 168KB means we clock in as the 4th lightest of the 22 sites.
Two concluding pleas:
Plea 1: Could all webmasters run their websites through one of the many free online tools that check the overall size of a page (I recommend the one offered by the WebsiteOptimization.com guys). If comes out at over 500KB get pruning. Remove some heavy images or chunky widgets on your page to get it down to a reasonable size.
Plea 2: Both the size of a webpage - and the number of HTTP requests the page makes - should be standard judging criteria in any web awards. Placing a carrot like that in front of any website owner who aspires to being recognised by his/her peers with an award for their site is one way to help focus minds on this often overlooked but important aspect of user experience, whether the user be connected via broadband or dialup. (...Of course it never crossed my mind that if super light CLUAS.com were ever to be up for consideration of an award with such an additional judging criteria, that our chances might get a bit of a lift...).