opinion

Weights and Measures

Stephen Yagielowicz
Today I’d like to share with you a quick tip; and reveal one of my favorite techniques for comparative page load testing as part of the development cycle – and the best thing about it is it’s not only free, but takes as much time to do as it did for you to read this first sentence.

Visit the web page in question, then right-click and “Save as…” This will save a copy of the web page along with a folder containing all of its associated files, including images and CSS files, to your desired location. Next, right-click on the saved web page and examine its properties; what you’re interested in is the file size. Then do the same for the folder containing the associated files. Adding these two figures together will give you the total download size of that page. As an alternative to the right-click, I easily perform this task from within Windows Explorer.

This is tremendously useful when tweaking your web pages for optimum file size and download time; a key ingredient in cultivating customer satisfaction. It’s also a great way to compare your offerings to that of your competitors: remember; fast-loading sites make customers happy!

As a “real world” example, I was tweaking the templates for my wife’s niche TGP the other night, trying to improve its load time. By starting with a baseline – which I recorded in a text file, showing the date, page size, associated file size, and the total size – I was able to repeat the test with each successive change to the template, quantifying improvements and evaluating whether or not 'tradeoffs' are worth the actual savings. I recorded each of these changes and am keeping the log in order to guide future efforts. As a side note, changing the way in which the drop shadow on some of the thumbnails was done from a very complex table structure to a simpler one using CSS dropped the page size by 200k.

I also tested some competing properties for good measure, seeing where her TGP ranked among them. With a total weight of around 600k, it’s heavier than many sites, but much smaller than some of its ‘2mb plus’ competitors. Now let’s see if I can get it to 300k total.

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