Overweight Pages on the Rise
Web developers, I mean this with the utmost seriousness, we have a weight problem.
No, no... not YOU personally (well, maybe... we sit on our butts quite a bit) - I'm talking about our web sites. They're getting heavier, a LOT heavier. Year over year the top 1,000 web sites (according to Alexa ranking) have increased their page-weight about 24% * . This is according to the HTTP Archive statistics site which keeps such statistics for top 1000 and 100 web sites globally. And it's not just the number of bytes transferred, it's the number of HTTP requests made per page that has increased as well.
A lot of you may have already guessed one of the leading causes of this increase: single-page web applications.
We as developers are creating a lot of very responsive user interfaces (both in the display-size-shifting sense and the simple UI feedback times) utilizing this single-page pattern; and to a point I think this is a good thing. The problem that I see is that many of these applications are being built for mobile - an environment which traditionally (and still currently) has very limited bandwidth. In other words, we're putting our heaviest, longest-time-to-load applications on devices that typically have our lowest bandwidth capabilities.
Caching is not a solution.
In my opinion, the single-page application is not the best approach. I think multi-page sections are a much better alternative, allowing applications to segment code, HTML, images, and even CSS such that it can be loaded when a page in that section is needed. Sure, there will always be core functionality and styles that are needed throughout the application, but we can do better than what we have now.
* Although the chart may suggest a larger increase, this is due to a change in testing by the HTTP Archive. You can read about the change on their site, although I found out about it via Steve Souders' blog post (and research): http://www.stevesouders.com/blog/2013/04/05/page-weight-grows-24-year-over-year-not-44/