File Size

Nothing is more annoying than idling on the Information Superhighway. People fidget in their chairs and glance at their watches, wondering when the page will finishing loading into the browser. More often than not, they give up quickly and hit the BACK button. No one wants to wait for immense graphics and multimedia files and pages that have more text than War and Peace. So why do some web designers fail to realize the obvious?

While high-speed access at home is becoming more common today, there are still people forced to use dial-up services; even with software to help speed the download process, a media-heavy site can bring traffic to a halt. So it is important to make your pages download fast and easy. Size does matter, but not the way you may think. Smaller file sizes mean less download time, especially if servers become busy and many people are trying to access your pages simultaneously. The sooner your pages load, the sooner people can move further into your site and find what the information they need (or perhaps surprise themselves with an impressive discovery).

A picture may say a thousand words, but designers need to pick and choose their graphics carefully and determine the necessity of putting large graphics on their site. Graphics should enhance but not dominate the contents of your page. Instead of fancy menu graphics, consider using a text menu. Instead of a huge corporate logo, consider reducing the size of that logo and placing your site’s name in text beside it. Above all, keep the file size of your images down; if you really want to put up that large graphic and you can keep it under 100 KB, then go ahead and use it, but don’t add a whole lot more to that page.

Likewise, people need to carefully study the length of each document and determine whether to preserve its outline or break it into smaller documents that are easier to scan. Remember that one of the advantages of the World Wide Web is that a single document, which is inherently linear, can be broken into smaller documents linked in a non-linear fashion. Testing your pages on a variety of platforms and network speeds will let you know if a single document is too large. However, people tend to be impatient and eager to move to the next page on the web, so it is probably better to write as clearly and concisely as possible, present your points, and stop. If people want to move on, then offer a link to further discussion so people will know to expect text-heavy pages.