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There is a huge misconception that the majority of web surfers are on really fast broadband Internet and that there is no reason to pander to a small group of 3-5% dial up users. The 3-5% numbers is what most people see on their Google Analytics. Many don't take into consideration the other stat of unknown which is much higher. Also, you don't know how many of the broad band users are actually dial up users because many small towns have small time ISP's that Google does not know about. They are thrown into the unknown category or T1.
The next thing people don't consider is that it is very common for people with very fast connections to get low bandwidth. There are many reasons for this. There can be a slowdown on the ISP in general or if you are on a cable modem your neighborhood could slow down. It is very common for several people in a household to share a connection. It is very common for somebody in the house to be downloading music or videos. Many broadband ISP's offer a cheap broadband that is below 1 Megabit for a cheaper price.
Web page load time can affect your bounce rate and your conversion rates. People just don't have patience. Marissa Mayer [youtube.com] said at 2008 Google IO that they tested returning 30 results instead of 10. Traffic went down 20%. People did not have patience for Google to load 30 results. Don't forget Google can return 30 results very quickly. She also spoke about how when Google maps first came out it was 120k in size. They reduced the size by 30% and they got 30% more maps requests. People want content fast.
When I first look at a client’s Website, page size is one of the fist things I look at. I have had several come to me with 500k plus web pages. I even had one guy with 1 MB. This is just a bad idea on so many levels. I try to get people to cut it down to at least 100k. Smaller is even better.
A couple of things to add. I'm unable to get high-speed at my house, so I consider myself an expert on surfing the web at 27KB (max speed possible on a pair gain system, common in rural areas).
1. At this point, dial-up users are typically rural people with no other alternative. In my case, it is 2.5 hours to drive to a Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, etc. I can get to a Kragen autoparts store in 1 hour.
So for me, if I have a lot of things to buy, it's worth driving into town. But if I don't, I'm willing to pay amounts for shipping that most people would not, because it saves me 4-5 hours of driving.
2. You're spot on about bounce rate. Most sites are simply unbrowseable on dialup. Also, people should know that I usually block images as it's the only reasonable way to surf on dialup. If your site is unusable without images, I'm gone. Bye!
Also, people should know that I usually block images as it's the only reasonable way to surf on dialup. If your site is unusable without images, I'm gone.
I utilize the Web Developer Toolbar and use the Disable Images all the time for SEO Sniff Tests. You want to know what is shocking? A large percentage of SEOs fail in this area, can you believe that? Ya, all these Blogs with their Image Replacement crap that doesn't work, not to mention the dreaded <h1>Logo</h1> setup which is usually without an alt attribute.
What do I see? Most will drop 500-1000k of page weight on you in a heartbeat! And then you get folks complaining about their browsers sucking, etc. Well, it is not your browser that sucks, it is the websites you are visiting that are breaking your browser. Really, it is.