Poor bandwidth can make or break your website. Here are a few tips for making the most of it…
Bandwidth isn’t something everyone knows about, but its implications can be very significant. Although the word has several subtly different meanings, bandwidth is a term most commonly associated with the volume of data uploaded or downloaded over a given period of time – usually measured in the number of bits of data transmitted each second.
Back in the bad old days of dial-up Internet, bandwidth was typically measured in kilobits per second. For people connecting to the internet through their phone line and a modem, 24 to 48 kbits a second was a normal download speed. Today, we expect to receive anywhere between ten and twenty megabits per second, while seasoned observers expect speeds of gigabits per second to be achievable one day. That’s still some way off, though, as people in remote corners of the UK will know all too well.
When constructing a website, it’s important to remember that we can’t all access 4G or rely on super-fast broadband. It’s easy to get carried away creating stylish transitions and HD videos, but these will only irritate people with limited connection speeds. Here are five top tips for saving bandwidth when designing your new website.
Keep the homepage simple.
That doesn’t mean a landing page where people immediately have to click “Enter Site” to proceed – these stopped being cool around the same time as Limp Bizkit. Instead, ensure the homepage is clean and crisp with nothing to slow it down. The proportion of people abandoning a site at the homepage is known as the bounce rate, and the Internet average already sits at 40 per cent. Visitors won’t venture onto subsequent pages if they get bored waiting for the homepage to appear.
Compress your images as much as possible without allowing them to pixelate. Modern digital cameras take ridiculously data-intensive images, so uploading pictures from your smartphone could really hog the bandwidth unless each photo is trimmed and/or compressed before being used.
Never set multimedia content to auto-play
Not only can the sudden explosion of sound startle the unwary surfer (and potentially embarrass them on a packed train), but everything else will slow down as the video tries to stream itself.
Break up content across different pages
The single-page website design is increasingly popular nowadays, with links at the top jumping down to different points on the same lengthy page. That’s fine when accessed via a 20MB broadband line, but it’s very annoying on 3G. A study by KISSmetrics recently concluded that almost half of web users expect a web page to load within two seconds, and 40 per cent will abandon a site if a page takes more than three seconds to appear. Single-page sites can be notoriously sluggish – do you really want visitors migrating onto competitor sites in frustration at how long it’s taking to display your site’s content?
When designing a website, always imagine how each visual component would look on a smartphone. If something displays well on a 23” monitor, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll work on a 4.5” smartphone screen. Unless each design element is effective across both formats, scrap it and save the bandwidth.
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