Page Size Growth: What It Means

It has recently been reported that the average web page size has tripled since 2008 — and perhaps more strikingly, that the average web page’s size has increased by 20% in the past six months.

So how alarmed should you be?

First, you have to know what’s being measured here. Last spring, the average web page, according to Joshua Bixby, was just over one megabyte, or 1,000,000 bytes (there is disagreement on just how many bytes a megabyte is, since “megabyte” just means “really big byte,” but I’m going with the International System of Units). Originally, a byte was the amount of storage room required for one character. Things have changed, but you could imagine that a computer page had by last spring gotten big enough to hold one million letters or numbers.

Pictures, videos, and live chat apps take up more room than letters or numbers, so you don’t need to begin counting the words on your homepage. But a 20& increase in six months is quite a bit; it suggests that the speed at which page sizes are increasing is itself increasing.

Bixby reminds us that around the holidays, websites may add images, plus things like flash and music and animated snowfall. Some pages might get smaller after the holidays, he figures. He’s still predicting that the average page could hit 2 megabytes early in 2014.

Now that we’re all clear that this isn’t about bigger monitors, what does this mean for you as a website owner?

  • Your bigger page may load more slowly. Are you a client who automatically blames the hosting company if your site loads slowly? Often, it’s because your pages are too big.
  • Your web host may charge you more.If your pages still load fast even though they’re large, it’s because you’re using more resources. It’s just like the difference between keeping your home warm when it’s 70 degrees out and when it’s 30 degrees out — you can do it, either way, but it requires more fuel in winter.
  • Google may rank your site as poorer in quality if your load time is slower. Google’s research shows that people are less satisfied if the have to wait for a page. Google wants happy searchers, so they won’t offer your slow site if there’s a faster one available.
  • You may lose customers who don’t have broadband. Are you okay with that? How about customers using computers on shared networks, like students on campus or nurses in a hospital?

What can you do if your website is too large? Since the average is increasing, it’s not all your fault. Web visitors expect a lot more out of a page than they used to, and your website has to meet those expectations. Giving up all images and style isn’t required. Here are some things you can do, though:

  • If your website’s code is out of date, get it rebuilt. Modern websites may have more bells and whistles, but they can also make better use of resources. A professional built site designed and coded by someone who knows how to keep file sizes as small as possible will be leaner and greener than a clunky old site. There are a lot of tech things that can reduce your page size without limiting your design or content.
  • Be frugal with your files. If you upload pictures, make sure you resize them and compress them. If you add text, don’t past it from Word, carrying along all that extra code. If you grab and reuse other websites’ code, just use what you need. Let YouTube host your videos instead of uploading them to your website. Think twice about putting a cute flash element into your sidebar just for fun.
  • Check your pages at WebSiteOptimization.com. Then talk with your web pros about any issues you discover.

The truth is, there are a lot of sites on the web that wouldn’t be missed if they were gone — sites with content scraped from other websites, sites with nothing but ads, and blogs abandoned by their owners after a couple of days. If your website is doing its job, it can take up some space. Chances are, though, you could have just as snazzy a website (or an even snazzier one) with less use of resources.

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