Is Web Page Bloat Costing Your Site?

With faster devices and networks, websites can now focus on creating a rich user interface. This allows for an engaging website with all the bells and whistles that can capture and hold a user’s attention. However, it isn’t always that simple and can come with a cost, namely the site’s hosting, visitor’s data and bandwidth rates.

Pagespeed and performance are usually an afterthought, but often forgotten is the actual size and bandwidth used to load a site. Due to these speed increases, websites have become more and more bloated. Last year, the article The Web is Doom pointed out that the average web page is about the same size as the classic computer game, Doom. As of March 2017, the average web page size is up from 2381 kB (when the article was written in 2016) to 2533 kB.

Average Bytes per Page
This chart shows the breakdown of website size by content type.

Where are all these extra kilobytes coming from?

Comparing the Total Transfer Size and Total Requests year over year, we can see that the number of items a web page loads has only slightly increased while the total size of the files has been growing by about 500 kB a year.

Total Transfers vs Total Requests
This is the average transfer size of and an average number of requests for a single website.

What does this increase in web page size cost?

From the websites, perspective hosting plans usually allocate a certain amount of bandwidth the site can use. This is calculated in the cost of the hosting plan and exceeding this usually incurs additional monetary cost or site speed penalties. To estimate a site’s monthly bandwidth needs:

  1. Estimate the average page size of the site, in kilobytes (KB). This can be done with tools like WebPagetest.org.
  2. Multiply the average page size by the monthly average number of visitors.
  3. Multiply that result by the average number of pageviews per visitor.

Monthly Bandwidth Requirement = ( Number of Visitors x Pages x Page Size )

From a visitor’s perspective, it depends on what the ISP or network provider charges for data rates. There is an impressive tool called What Does My Site Cost? which can take a URL and calculate the cost of a web page on mobile networks around the world. With the current web page sizes, the average cost of loading a website on your phone in the US is $0.16.

What can be done?

While the increase in website size can’t be avoided as users demand higher quality content, the rate at which it is growing can be decreased. It is important for a website to have an engaging user experience and decisions should be made with cost in mind. Every time an element is added to a site, it should be weighed with the value it adds to the site against the cost of resources it will use.

Resources from: HTTP Archive