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Optimizing web pages – Maximum page size

Optimizing web pages - Maximum page size

One of the important things to remember when designing web pages is their file size. The size of the page determines how fast it loads on the visitor’s browser window. Expecting your visitors to wait till your web page loads is wishful thinking. The browser Back and Close buttons are just a click away.

So what would you rather have – people leaving your web site quickly as it’s taking ages to load because of all fancy graphics and flash animation or visitors who will go through the web page and maybe a few more on your web site? Put yourself in the visitors shoes, are you ready to wait more than 10 seconds for a web page to load? Obviously, you cannot control the bandwidth used by the visitor but you can surely work on optimising your web pages so they load quickly – right?

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Here we will look at some of the factors that determine web page file size and the maximum file size that you should aim for. The next article discusses on how to actually optimize a web page.

Optimized search engine homepage

First, a small example. Why did the Google Search Engine become such a hit? I agree that they had this wonderful indexing and ranking algorithm which yielded relevant results and lead to popularisation of Google. But another, often ignored, important aspect was their homepage – www.google.com. It was (and still is) so different from the homepages of other popular search engines.

The Google homepage has just the logo on top with a rather large search query field and two search buttons in addition to a few text links. The simplicity of the Google page meant that the visitor quickly knows where to type their search query… there is no “hunting” involved, no distracting ads, no abundance of extra links that confuse the visitor. The barebones design also meant that the entire homepage (including the Google logo image) was less than 15kb – Now that was an optimized web page!

Because of the small file size of the Google home page it loaded very quickly even on slow bandwidths. Obviously, the time taken to display search results and their relevancy played a part in making Google the most loved search engine, but let us not forget the importance of the optimized barebones homepage.

So what is the maximum size?

The technologies on which the Internet runs are becoming better by the day. However, there would be many users that take time to adapt to these technologies. You should remember that not everyone is connected to the net with a high speed access.

The time taken for a web page load in a browser window is governed by four factors – the file size of the web page, the surfer’s bandwidth, the processor speed of your hosting server and the complexity of the web page. Now since you cannot control the bandwidth used by your visitors, you should take care to host your web site on a fast server and optimize your web pages which includes decreasing the file size of the HTML document as well as any images/multimedia content embedded in that web page and doing away with complex HTML (for example, laying out the web pages using style sheets instead of nested tables).

If your site caters to everyone, each web page should not be more than 50kb. This will guarantee that web pages load in a matter of seconds.

How to calculate web page size

The page size is not only determined by the HTML file but also by any graphics and multimedia that are included in the page. The list below describes what all to add up when calculating the web page size.

  • HTML document file size
  • File sizes of graphics – including any background images.
  • Any included (JavaScript (.js), External Sheets (.css), SSI, PHP files etc) files sizes.
  • File sizes of preloaded data such as images.
  • Sizes of any multimedia content such as sound, video, Flash files etc. that are embedded in the web page.

How to actually optimize each of the above is the topic of discussion for the next article – Optimizing web pages.

Knowing your audience

The size of any page on your site is governed by the kind of audience you hope to receive. As I mentioned before, if the site caters to everyone, the page size should not exceed 50kb. However, if you are promoting the site only for high end users and know that they are either ready to wait for your pages or use high speed connections and fast computers, your page size can bloat accordingly.

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