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Optimizing Design: Bandwidth

Incorporate an understanding of your audience's bandwidth reality into your overall design.


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Bandwidth Planning

ncorporate an understanding of your audience's bandwidth reality into your overall design.

Bandwidth describes the size of the "pipe" through which data moves between computers. The higher the bandwidth, the more data that can flow at the same time.



Print and broadcast design have their own limitations (think press requirements and television resolution); bandwidth is one of the web medium's limitations. For web design, being beautiful or useful isn't enough—if a Web page takes too long to download, few readers will wait long enough to see it.

The key to good use of graphics—and the bandwidth they require—isn't to avoid graphics altogether. It is to understand the bandwidth limitations of your audience's environment and create a page that works within those constraints. This means planning—thinking about your page elements in advance and making your design decisions before you sit down to build a page in your HTML editing program.

In fact, if you design thoughtfully, bandwidth is unlikely to be as much of an issue than if you subscribe to "just throw it together as you go" philosophy.

Make every image count; don't use gratuitous graphics. If it doesn't add value, drop it.

Use Flash or Shockwave when the application they deliver allows your reader to interact with your site and content better; don't use these higher-bandwidth techniques just to make your logo spin and glitter.

Use animated gifs when they deliver your message; don't use animated gifs because you think they look "cool." Animation packs a lot of bandwidth overhead and too much animation can be annoying.



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