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Websites Grow Rapidly While Performance Expectations Stay the Same

The web is trending bigger in absolute terms of size, requests and content. User expectations are, however, trending in equal measure towards faster speeds.
standard web page size grows
standard web page size grows – web performance expectations stay the same

If there’s one word that can describe website growth and performance trends over the past year, it’s “big.” The data from 2013 also clearly demonstrates that web site speed is a moving target and that target is moving… slower.

Because of a number of factors, the average size of websites grew 32 percent in 2013, according to performance indices from the HTTP Archive.  Importantly, what does the continual shift to bigger and slower websites mean for accomplishing organizational goals–like new revenues–using a website?

Well, as they say in sports, let’s first look at a “replay” of the 2013 data itself. When comparing the period Dec. 15, 2012, to Dec. 15, 2013, a few trends appear:

  • Standard web page size continues to grow at a rapid clip. The average size of a web page increased from 1.28 MB at year end 2012 to 1.7 MB at year end 2013. That’s a big jump, especially when you consider that at year end 2010, the average size of a web page was 726 kB.
  • Images play a huge part in this growth. Images have grown from an average of 793 kB per page in 2012 to just over 1 MB per page. This is more than double the average from 2010, when the average image size per page was 430 kB. New image formats are looking to help minimize website image sizes, but browser compatibility remains a big stumbling block.
  • The magic number is still three or better. The Aberdeen Group’s 2008 study that suggested a web page must load in < three seconds or it risks losing customers and revenue, still holds a lot of weight. However, newer research suggests that the magic number might be inching closer to two seconds.  When research group Evidon Inc. tracked 50 top retailers over Thanksgiving weekend it found that some of the top retail websites–including Macys.com and ToysRUs.com–were closer to 3.5 to four seconds over that period.
  • Mobile websites are becoming more streamlined, but speed still an issue. Google has suggested that page load times for mobile devices should be closer to one second, as opposed to the current five to seven seconds for most sites.

All the data is clear: The web is trending bigger in absolute terms of size, requests and content. User expectations are, however, trending in equal measure towards faster speeds.

The balancing act for website owners involves meeting user expectations for both performance and content. Not easy, especially given the increasing reliance on applications and party hosted content (but that’s for another blog post). That’s why understanding how your website is performing by monitoring it in order to maximize the value of your website to your users while keeping performance in mind has never been more critical.

{ photo credit: Skimaniaccc }

Interested to see how fast your website loads? Give Dotcom-Monitor’s free website speed test a try.

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