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I use a tool [websiteoptimization.com] to measure my pages that has a lot of limits encoded into it as to what is a good speed/page size, etc.
There are two different but related issues here: total page weight (including images, external scripts, css images etc) and file size of the html alone. Since the informative text is usually in the html, using source-ordered code can make a big difference and put the unique information on the screen before all the pretty stuff is downloaded. The page can have many elements that are downloading and still be highly usable.
I personally aim for as low as possible - under 10kb of html and under 70kb total page weight is still my ideal, but many designers and developers are having none of that. Their loss, I say.
I start to freak out whenever html tops 40kb or page weight goes into the 150-200kb area. I recently saw some stats that 40% of users are still on dial up. Watch out for sneaky stats here - I care about counting users, not "hours online" which can be highly distorted since broadband users are always on.
Fast downloading pages have always been a secret weapon commercially, and they are even moreso today.
All those sidebars, ads, and scripts loading and loading and still waiting on some third party script(s) with not a bit of content showing...immediate 'back and gone'. Making me wait does not increase my ad awareness just my bad design awareness.
I see three concerns (one upping tedster):
* the page HTML: the only times I've seen a site-wide problem is with some horrible CMS or HTML generator creating unbelieveable unnecessary code crap. Almost always nested tables with in-HTML presentation, i.e. font tags, etc.
* the external first-party images and scripts: not optimizing images for the web and running scripts before page load are regrettably common.
* third party scripts: analytics and ad programs are the biggest offenders frequently grinding away holding up content appearance sometimes until page timeout. Yes I know it is not a 'size' problem but poor scripting design really is an even bigger one.
As tedster mentions source ordered code is a life saver on dial-up, as are optimised images, having an absolute minimum of client-side scripting and running as many as possible last. Your code can be tight but a poorly designed or placed script can negate all your optimising.
Indeed the script problem is so widespread I browse with js off. Which highlights usability problems on many sites...
This took my index page from 140 KB to 70 KB. That was just stripping the comments and extra lines and whatnot from the JS and CSS under my control. There's other JS and CSS that is not under my control.
I'll look at some of the other stuff, and see if I can figure a way to further strip code.