Is the Web Becoming ‘Data Heavy?’

Tech December 31, 2014

In today’s mobile age, the was “minority” of phone-toting web users is quickly becoming equal to and may even surpass that of it’s desktop counterpart.

In a recent issue of Smashing Magazine’s newsletter, the author shared his experience browsing a number of websites relying mostly upon his phone’s data plan. So ‘heavy’ have many websites become (full of data-sucking large images and resources) that he was astonished at how quickly he was burning through 5 GB of data:

The web keeps getting heavier and heavier, but we know that already. However, what exactly does this mean for the users visiting our websites? I’ve been traveling a lot this year, and unless I have good Wi-Fi, I tend to tether my phone and use it as a hotspot. My consumption of data is modest; I don’t do audio or video streaming via 4G, I don’t sync Dropbox or GitHub, nor do I upload or download large files, and I always remember to disable all background traffic. I take good care of my hotspot, and I am considerate when it comes to using or not using it. I douse email a lot though, and I do find myself reading a lot on the web — both when writing, editing and doing research.


Throughout 2014, December was the second month in a row when my monthly limit of 5GB of data was reached early on — primarily due to Retina images and image overhead sent to my device (which happens to have a Retina screen). Now, 5 GB is quite a lot of data, and seeing so much data being wasted so quickly is astonishing, to say the least. That’s why responsive images are so important, but they cover only one side of the story.

As possible solutions for the user, the author recommends tools like Chrome’s Data Compression Proxy. For us as web content providers, it serves as a good reminder to remain sensitive to the size of images we’re using and uploading on our sites.

As the author demonstrates with his own experiences, using a 5 MB image where a 500k would do may compound the problem, however, a “heavier” web may be unavoidable with Retina displays and higher resolution screens.

What do you think?

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