We all know the obesity problem in America is an epidemic. And like many Americans, websites also have an obesity problem, growing 150 times in size over the past 20 years. In 1995 the average webpage was 14 KB, while today’s sites average 2,162 KB. In the past five years, websites have more than doubled in size, and there are no signs that this trend will change.

Why Are Websites Getting Fatter?

Website obesity serves a purpose. It broadens the customer experience — but it does so at the cost of performance. In fact, every change makes a website slower. If nothing is done to these bloated websites, the problem will continue to escalate, leading to frustrated users, increased site abandonment and decreased conversions.

Here are five key factors that contribute to website obesity and dramatically affect latency:

  1. Content: As web pages grow, content overload is hurting desktop performance. With the average page size having doubled in the last five years, adding content is an upward trend. That same content will be pushed to a mobile device, resulting in even slower performance.
  2. High-resolution images: With the growing need for visual stimulation and instant gratification, images now account for 62 percent of an average page’s total size. With the quantity and size of images increasing, websites will continue to expand their waistlines.
  3. Personalization: Details of past interactions create a more personable experience. In fact, 53 percent of consumers tend to make higher-value transactions with retailers that record past browsing behaviors or purchases to recommend products. The tradeoff: An increased dependence on dynamically generated personalized content contributes to increased web page size.
  4. Responsive design: Amidst the different devices are hundreds of ways images and pages can be resized to fit different screens. The more responsive your page is to various screen sizes, the more page complexity added to the website, leading to performance problems.
  5. Third-party code: The use of ads, social sharing widgets, analytics and other third-party code has increased dramatically over the years. On average, 40 percent of a website’s code is from third parties. This increase in scripting code is a heavy contributor to slower page load times.

With all these contributors to website obesity, doing nothing is not an option.

The Problem: Fat Mobile Sites on Thin Data Connections

The shift to mobile also presents its own unique challenges. Nearly half of all e-commerce traffic is driven from mobile devices. However, performance over mobile connections and Wi-Fi networks is still slow and congested.

Although mobile traffic has increased by 25 percent, mobile conversions have plummeted by 73 percent over the same time period. Consequently, the average response time on mobile is 5.78 seconds — 28 percent slower than a year ago. If nothing is done to improve web performance, these issues are a potentially disastrous combination. Compound that with the “Mobilegeddon” phenomenon, which favors faster load times on mobile devices to get top billing in Google’s search algorithms, and the results are disastrous.

What Those Extra Pounds Could Mean for Your Business

Having a hefty website could have radical performance implications directly impacting revenue. For e-commerce sites, conversion rates drop by up to 50 percent when “browse” pages increase from one to six seconds. More telling is that 68 percent of people will not wait more than five seconds for a page to load on a mobile device. And what’s worse is more than 75 percent of customers left for a competitor’s site due to slow speed at peak traffic times.

Think of holiday seasons and flash sales: If a website performed at its slowest speed, sales would experience a painful hit. Alternatively, just a one-second performance improvement can drastically turn things around. For companies that make billions in revenue, a small percentage increase actually translates to a significant dollar amount. With Walmart, a one-second improvement led to a 2 percent increase in conversions, and Staples saw a whopping 10 percent increase.

Watching Your Weight

Face it — websites are growing. Take preventive measures to ensure your website is healthy by keeping web performance at the top of your priorities. Ways to stay healthy include:

  1. Cleansing your website. Take out all unnecessary content and unused assets, including third-party widgets, social buttons and unused customized fonts.
  2. Simplifying your website design. Don’t over-design, trim down the number of pages and use a limited color palette.
  3. Using application monitoring (APM) tools. These monitor real user experience, ensuring your website operates at maximum efficiency.

By taking these preventive measures to slim down your website, you can improve performance — without sacrificing customer satisfaction. Don’t fall victim to website obesity. Take immediate action to improve web performance.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  ND Strupler