Web pages have been growing in size all along. This means that Web pages are getting more bloated all the time. Based on the top 1,000 websites on the Internet, the average page size has gone from 626 kB to 784 kB. Size is of course only part of the “performance formula” for a website. But it’s often an important one, especially if you’re targeting users that won’t necessarily have optimal Internet connections. There really are no excuses for overly bloated websites. The growing epidemic of page bloat article tells that the average web page is now more than 1 megabyte. This isn’t a case where bigger is better, it’s bad for site owners and for mobile users.
Page size is still an important speed factor, especially for users that do not have the fastest Internet connection. For mobile users many web sited have offer for years mobile optimized web pages for mobile users. For many sites those have been lightning fast compared to traditional web pages. Those have worked well on smartphones. A good mobile web page should be small, preferably just tens of kilobytes maximum in size to load at reasonable speed even on slower networks. The user’s don’t always have the fastest 3G or 4G mobile connection available all the time. There are locations where 3G networks work slowly (too many users) and also at remote locations there are many places where you only get 2G GPRS/EDGE connection. The connection speed for many 3G users is only 400-1000 kilobits/second and for 2G users the speed is typically only 20-120 kilobits/second.
But it seems that nowadays there is tendency for mobile web pages to bloat! Finnish news magazine Iltalehti used to have a fast and well working mobile pages. They used to be good and fun to use (reasonably small in size that they load and work without too much waiting). But not anymore! Now the mobile main page is 200-300 kilobytes. When you read one news, you normally get to load 400-500 kilobytes of data to read just 1-2 kilobytes of actual text and maybe a tiny picture. This is insanely huge for a mobile web page. It loads very slowly on mobile connection! And it too much for many older smartphones. And very costly if you want to check news abroad (reading few news articles costs easily 0.5-1 euros to transfer the data!!). Maybe the new features have better usability for some users (ones using large tablet and fast connection), but for smartphone users that do not have the latest model they are many steps back in usability!
Other competing news magazine Iltasanomat mobile version is was slightly better, but not very much. Main page and news articles is “only” 100-200 kilobytes! Those are better but still big for mobile! And slow. And when I today checked that same service, it seems they have also suffered the bloated mobile page disease, because now the mobile pages are almost 400 kilobytes in size. Maybe they can’t risk of being faster to use than their competitor.
Consumers browsing the web on their smartphones expect pages to load fast—two to four seconds is an ideal range, mobile experts say. How can those bloated pages provide that in even pretty acceptable mobile connection? For many sites mobile performance is suffering because their site is too complex (unnecessary stuff added to pages). The high number of page objects and lots of data are the main reasons why sites load slowly.
If you make huge mobile web pages, they will load unacceptably slowly to those users (waiting a minute to read a short news article is very annoying), and fail to work on older smartphones (happened to me more and more often that browser hangs). Usability becomes very poor with this. The companies are possibly loosing money, because users are probably going to other services and usually the first things that start to fail on bloated pages are the advertisements.