Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Heavy web dev: TechCrunch is a 2MB page.

One of the blogs I read all the time is TechCrunch: it covers the high-tech startup scene.

You could argue that it's more than a blog since it's a full-fledged business with multiple partner sites and paid writers, but I still think of it as a blog because if its focus on immediacy. Everything is reported fast and off-the-cuff, with even the more ponderous, essay-like posts obviously written in haste.

As I was looking at it today I started wondering how big, in terms of data size and bandwidth, a site like that is. The answer: almost two megabytes for the home page.

Folks, that is a lot. Yahoo's front page, which also takes a long time to load and is also full of Flash adverts, clocks in at 445K today. The chart view on Google Finance, which has light ads but very heavy (and feature-rich) Flash, is 680K.

I'm not trying to pick on TechCrunch here: the fact is that the acceptable size of any web page has grown phenomenally in the last year or so. As an iPhone user and a Web developer I find the trend worrisome.

Of course you want to make the page as rich as possible for the user, and of course you want to maximize your ad revenue. But you have to balance that against a fundamental aspect of usability: if the page takes too long to load, or puts too great a burden on low-power devices, you are leaving a lot of potential users out in the cold.

For my part, I plan to take page size and load time very seriously in my next Web project. I doubt I'll be able to hit my Web 1.0 gold standard of 15K per page, since a decent JavaScript toolkit and a bit of Google Analytics already breaks the 100K barrier, but it's still an important consideration.

(As for TechCrunch specifically, they're very good about publishing a full RSS feed. I read that on my phone most of the time, and read the site a bit during the day since there are often embedded videos and links to other heavyweight sites that aren't as usable on a mobile device.)

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