Website and Human Obesity: When Correlation Isn’t Causation

Website obesity- measuring tape around an apple

Obesity – everyone knows it’s bad and it’s an epidemic. However, obesity isn’t just limited to weight gain. Like human obesity, websites also have an obesity problem. Just over the past year, web pages have become about 25% bigger meaning the download size of a website is about 1890KB today versus 1532KB just over a year ago. Take a look down history lane and you’ll notice that websites have more than doubled in size over the last three years. In fact, websites have grown more than 150x in size over the past 20 years. So, what does this have to do with human obesity?


Human Obesity Growth

Let’s first take a look at human obesity and its growth rate over time. Since the 1960’s, the rise in weight gain in the United States has been steadily increasing, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  

Website Obesity - Human Growth Chart

Website Obesity Growth

Put the Super Sized meal aside and look at the growth rate of websites over time. According to HTTP archive, the total transfer size of websites (an indicator of how heavy a website is) has grown by an average of 5% annually and there are no signs of website weight slowing down. By late 2017, at this same growth rate, the average page will be a whopping 3MB.

Website Obesity - Website Growth Chart

Strikingly similar is the slope of the curves. In fact, if you plot the website obesity growth rates on top of the human obesity growth rates, they are almost identical. Quite ironic considering human obesity and website obesity have absolutely no correlation to each other. 

Website Obesity - Human Growth & Website Growth Overlay

Unlike human obesity, however, website obesity is actually quite useful. By having a fatter website, the user experience is richer – higher quality images, more content, more personalized, etc. In fact, every change to your website is making it larger - the root cause of website obesity. Larger websites will ultimately slow down performance and by not prioritizing performance, the consumer experience will degrade over time. Therefore, the cost of performance cannot be ignored. Consumers will shy away from slow loading websites leading to increased site abandonment and decreased conversions. So, at the very least, acknowledge that your website will have an obesity problem and if left untouched, your website waistline will continue to expand. Like everything, moderation and working smarter, not harder is key. Measure your page size and take immediate action to improve web performance with a more intelligent content delivery network.

Stay tuned for the next series of posts that will shed some light on why your website is bloated and what you can do about it.