Bloated Websites

There’s a bit of chatter on the ‘net at the moment about websites with so much information on their front page that they have made themselves unattractive to dial-up users.

Websites loaded with graphics, active links to other sites, video clips, and large images can take an age to “open up” for visitors with slow network connections. While the web browser assembles all the material for display, users sit and wait… and wait… and wait.

With about half of New Zealand still using dial-up access to the Internet, these bloated websites could be cutting themselves off from half of their potential Kiwi audience.

A trim front page is not necessary in all cases, however. Websites with a busy front page that rarely changes can still be attractive to visitors with slow connections. If the page is assembled with properly written code, then the web browsers of regular visitors can make efficient use of caching to display unchanged elements while they download the new content. Caching stores the information locally, so that it does not need to be downloaded via a slow connection.

Blog sites, on the other hand, feature content that changes regularly and so size does matter. It is better to have a trim front page that presents links to pages containing new material. The visitor can then burrow deeper to read the stories of interest.

I regularly visit several websites that treat dial-up users with contempt. On every visit, my browser has to download the entire page of images, tabs, menus and other paraphernalia even though they haven’t changed since last visit. Grrrrrr.

But help is at hand. A handy little website optimisation tool has been made available to test out how fast a website’s front page can be downloaded and suggest tweaks that will make it more attactive to visitors using slow connections.

Thanks to Colin Jackson for alerting me to this tool.

For the record, the Wild Land front page currently takes only 5 seconds to download on a 56k modem. That’s pretty trim

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