Basic Web Usability Blunders – Part 1

Its amazing how many websites commit the most basic of Web Usability Blunders – and usually websites of all sizes, budgets and markets are equally prone to these mistakes.

The first of the Web Usability Blunders I’ll take a look at is a problem thats been around since the first homepage with graphics – Homepages with Large File Sizes and High Download Times

These are often the most appealing homepages, but also often the most annoying – due to heavy use of graphics they simply take too long to download. Even with the recent march towards broadband, not every web user has access to broadband.

During a recent review of websites in various tourism-related industries, such as sailing, golf and skiing, I found every website was over the recommended maximum homepage size of between 40-80 KB.

Here’s some facts and figures pulled from this review:

  • only 2 of the 14 homepages were anywhere near the 40-80 KB – at 88 KB and 92 KB.
  • the largest found was a massive 1700 KB – including 599 KB graphics files and 981 KB Flash files
  • the average size for the 14 homepages was 339 KB (taking out the 1700 KB example, it reduced down to an average of 234 KB)
  • some example download speeds taken from http://www.websiteoptimization.com/ showed that a homepage of 167 KB took 36 seconds to download on a 56k modem and 13 seconds on a 128k ISDN. 11 of the 14 websites tested were over 167 KB in size.

Why is this a Problem?

  • With many users still on slow connections, the download speed of the homepage could take longer than the user is willing to wait. This may lead to them leaving the website, rather than waiting.
  • Large homepage sizes can also sometimes cause problems with search engine spiders, which may sometime not fully spider a page if it is very large, as it may cause a timeout in the connection that the spider has to the page.

How to fix it?

This Web Usability Blunder has a few simple fixes:

  • Use higher compression rates for any JPG files used
  • Reduce the number of graphic files used
  • Reduce the physical size of any graphics files used

Useful online resources

http://www.websiteoptimization.com/
http://www.designingonline.com/spin/reducing_page_size.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JPEG
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_Network_Graphics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GIF

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