In the early days of the internet, websites tended to be fairly primitive. These were the days of dial-up internet connections, and a typical web design would include a lot of text. The goal was to communicate information as quickly and easily as possible. This meant that web pages were small.
Then came broadband, which completely changed web design. All of a sudden websites could be loaded quickly, and multiple pages could easily be navigated without going to boil the kettle between each one.
This had a huge impact on the visual components of website design. Whilst the rise and fall of Flash was relatively quick, the steady growth in the size of an average website has continued as designers look to include increasingly complex and high-quality ingredients.
The average size of a web page in 2012 was 1.25MB. This is expected to hit 2MB by 2014.
In other words, things are starting to get a little bloated.
Mobile Changes Everything
In recent years we’ve seen the resurgence of ‘skinny’. Skinny Ties. Skinny Jeans. Skinny Latte.
Skinny is cool.
The business world should take heed; we’re going to see a fresh wave of skinny web design in the next couple of years.
The success of mobile has highlighted how ineffective ‘big’ web design can be. The problem is that 3G connections tend to be 40% slower than desktop connections, and mobile data isn’t cheap. This means that bigger websites are slower to load, hard to navigate and inappropriate for committed mobile users who would rather not exceed their monthly data allowance.
The functionality of mobile websites is being addressed by responsive web design, which allows users to view the website in a format which is most appropriate for their device. However, this isn’t going to solve the obesity problem.
A recent study of 54 higher education responsive website designs found that the average page size was 1.54MB on a large screen and 1.2 MB on mobile devices. This means that the websites are slighly optimised for mobile. However, in the same study it was found that when the university had a mobile-only site the average page size was only 180KB.
An analysis of 54 higher education responsive sites found the average page size to be 1.54MB on large screens and 1.2MB on small screens. So a few of these are optimizing things a bit for mobile.
A sample of higher education websites showed that the average page size was around 1.2mb on smaller screens. In the same study it was found that mobile-only sites averaged only 180kb per page, approximately 1/7 the size of the responsive web design.
What are the implications?
There are many ways in which mobile changes the way that we think about web design, and size is a big one.
As the mobile revolution continues, companies who find a way to slim down their web design and ‘get skinny’ are going to offer mobile users a much better experience, and ultimately do both themselves and their visitors an enormous favour.