April 20, 2017
3 min read time

Size matters: No more hurry up and wait


With growth in size, things tend to slow down. Nowhere is this more true than with the web. Growing web page size creates latency. Especially when accessing web pages on mobile.

Page size has ballooned since the dawn of the internet. Research from software engineer Ronan Cremin revealed that the average web page weighs more or less the same as the computer game Doom. Maybe this doesn’t contextualize the size enough or show why and how exactly size matters. In November 2016, according to the HTTP Archive, an average web page weighed about 2,509KB. Images comprised the largest portion at 1,624KB. As recently as 2010, the average page size was less than half this size. (And in 1995 the average page size was a puny 14KB).

In some ways, size is a positive side effect of the availability of bandwidth and speed of access, giving businesses the opportunity to do more sophisticated things with their websites, meeting the needs of their visitors, e.g. using more visuals, using multimedia, personalization. At the same time, bloat for bloat’s sake - building onto sites without adding value or planning and streamlining growth - won’t float. Users won’t stick around when page size begins to affect the page-load performance, which not only benefits competitors but may in fact drive customers/users/visitors away from a slow page for good.

Moving to mobile - why optimizing is key

On mobile devices, all of these issues are exacerbated. Pages that aren’t optimized for mobile are pretty much dead in the water. Content delivery on mobile is make or break, and more and more people are using mobile as their primary device, making mobile performance and speed more important than ever. For the first time ever, according to StatCounter numbers from late 2016, mobile device internet use exceeded desktop use, with mobile users jumping to over 50%.

This importance will only continue to grow, not just because of this use trend but because of the things people will start to expect and do with their mobile, based on this ubiquity. While people have been slower to, for example, follow through on completing purchases on e-commerce sites with their mobile devices (only making up just over 11% of online purchases in the US in 2014, according to Business Insider), this has begun to shift, and is a harbinger of what’s on the near horizon. The mobile device will be the primary, if not only, device for many people, and they will conduct all their business with it, making performance and reliability paramount.

Mobile first: Speed up content delivery

And what can be done to ensure that these mobile performance requirements are met? Of course companies can start by building their sites to be mobile friendly and optimizing for maximum performance. But external technologies also lend their magic to smooth and fast mobile content delivery. One of these is caching and the host of flexible tricks caching technology offers.

A couple of these mobile web performance-boosting tactics enable:

  • Improving and speeding up web page assembly: Most modern website content is assembled in a user’s browser. This can take tens of seconds in slow instances. Templating languages allow for assembling pages in a more “on-the-fly” way by using cached bits and pieces, which wipes out the dreaded waiting time, delivering pages in milliseconds. This is essential to the user experience. Varnish Software does exactly this with the recently launched Edgestash, a Mustache-based templating language that does page assembly at the network edge.
  • Allowing for personalization without hurting performance: We’ll cover this point in next week’s blog post on personalization and performance. For now, it’s good to for you to know that Varnish Software, here too, has you covered with parallel ESI.

Join us for a live webinar on 23 May to learn more about managing your mobile content delivery performance.

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