chalakanth

After trying to conserve bandwidth for a few days ….

I looked around for help on slowing down the speed at which I was eating up my monthly allotment of bandwidth, and found that many other people have tread this path before. Here is one pretty nice reference at Million Clues.

As various references suggested, I switched to FireFox, and installed two Add-ons, AdBlock Plus, and ImgLikeOpera.

I don’t have any scientific proof that this has reduced my bandwidth consumption, but I can certainly see that both banner ads (AdBlock Plus), and images (ImgLikeOpera) are not fetched.   Pages are loading faster.

ImgLikeOpera has the more significant impact on my user experience.  I have set it to block all images by default.   It has been interesting going about my business on the web without any images.   Some types of sites accommodate the missing images much better than others.

EspnCricinfo looks bad without images.  They use images for backgrounds of menus, without the background image, the menu items simply get mixed up with the other text.

Shopping sites were hard to deal with, which I suppose is natural.  After about 10 minutes on the Croma site, I gave up and turned on all images.   Large shopping sites like Zappos, and Amazon, will not work very well on low bandwidth.   On the other hand, I imagine that their mobile sites are designed with bandwidth constraints in mind.

News sites did much better.   The New York Times site was lovely.  Without images it continued to look very familiar.   Missing images were clearly marked, and stayed out of the way of the text.  The text itself was in exactly the same places that it always is.  Washington Post was a little uneven.  Talking Points Memo was clean.   Political Wire never has news images, and isn’t that a nice decision.

I have a renewed appreciation for the tech and design folks at the New York Times.   They probably wouldn’t even hire me as a janitor.

Facebook was interesting.   At first, it was very hard to use with all images turned off.   After a couple of days, it is beginning to feel natural.  I guess the brain adjusts.  It gets used to the visual cues that the images provide.   After a couple of days without images, you begin to learn the cues that the other content provides.

I have deliberately stayed away from many of the Indian sites.   My experience these past few weeks at these sites has not been very pleasant.   Their attention to user experience, to put it mildly, is uneven.   Dedicated E-commerce sites (FlipKart, InfiBeam, SnapDeal, etc.) have been generally much better than enterprise sites (Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, Tata Docomo, Karur Vysya Bank, etc.).

This is all very interesting.  I have never had to take available band-width into account when coming up the design for a web UI.   I wonder how seriously this is addressed by developers who cater to folks in the first world.   However, everybody is moving towards ‘mobile design first’.   One of the basic constraints of that world, is limited bandwidth.  Decisions made for the mobile design will bleed into the desktop, and that will address bandwidth shortage in a natural manner, I expect.