Extreme HTML Optimization | WebReference

Extreme HTML Optimization


Extreme HTML Optimization

by Andrew King

Bungee jumping become boring? Sky surfing going stale? Have we got the extreme sport for you! Extreme HTML Optimization (EHO). As yet unrecognized by the International Olympic Committee, EHO is nevertheless the sport of wily webmasters worldwide. EHO grows out of a user-centric "less is more" approach to Web design advocated by yours truly and the likes of Jakob Nielsen (useit.com) and Jeffrey Veen (webmonkey.com).

Why Optimize HTML?

Users have short attention spans. Human factors research has shown that users will wait at most 8 to 10 seconds for your page to display. That's the limit of people's ability to keep their attention focused while waiting. Response times of less than a second are ideal, but one second response times at current bandwidth (averages 56Kbps) are impractical, so we settle for 8-10 seconds. What does 8-10 seconds mean in terms of page size? About 30-40K total at current bandwidth. (1) Studies have shown that designers who violate this limit pay for their largess with increased bailout rates (the percentage of users who don't wait for the page to download), lost sales, and increased bandwidth/disk utilization costs. (2) That's where EHO comes in.

What is EHO?

EHO is more of an attitude than a specific technique. Every byte counts. The idea is to use the minimum amount of markup to render a page that still works (and validates if desired). HTML optimization is the process of minimizing HTML file size to maximize page display speed. Typical Web pages have extra characters (comments, spaces, returns and redundant attributes) that can safely be removed with no change in appearance. EHO takes this process to its logical extreme within an anything goes approach, where no HTML is safe. EHO is not for everyone. Some of the techniques shown here violate HTML 4, and some don't. It's up to you which ones you use.

Balance in Web Design

Web design is all about balance: a tradeoff between bandwidth and beauty. The skilled Web designer walks a fine line between appearance and functionality, and can craft pages that appear good but display quickly. That's a real skill, something that WYSIWYG HTML editors won't give you. In fact, I think there is a disconnect between what users want (info fast) and what Web designers are giving them (slow-loading glitz). Promulgated by WYSIWYG HTML editors, high-end how-tos, and overzealous designers there's a plethora of bloated pages out there that few users are willing to wait for. Unoptimized code is rampant on the Web. And I, for one, am on a mission to stop the madness.




Comments are welcome

Created: Jan. 10, 2000
Revised: Mar. 19, 2001

URL: http://webreference.com/authoring/languages/html/optimize/