Responsive web design and low and expensive bandwidth

Some time ago, the Malawi daily newspaper, The Nation, released a new web design. More recently Nyasa Times updated their web design. In both cases, it’s an improvement. And from my current home base here in Switzerland, both sites load promptly.

From family in Malawi I hear that the loading times for both sites have increased. It would be interesting to hear from others if they noticed the same.

Many people in Malawi access the internet via mobile devices. Only few have access to flat rates and most Malawi internet users probably use prepaid data bundles, i.e. every MB of data costs $$$.

In addition, some parts of Malawi and even parts of Blantyre don’t have a good connectivity.

I think it’s important to find out how your target audience will access your site. And then optimize your site for low bandwidth. I’ve written about this topic before. (Click here and here).

I’m not a web developer. But I do think we need to step in and ask questions about page speed. Page speed is an important part of the overall user experience.

Responsive web designs are great. One content base serves web pages on different end devices from smartphone to large monitor screens.

But what about optimising responsive sites for lower bandwidth?

What kind of things should you adapt and change? Best practises for responsive sites?

I switched off a WordPress mobile plugin called Mobilepress ‘cos it was creating a lot of broken links which showed up in Google Webmaster Tools.

Should I reinstall a mobile plugin like Mobilepress on my WordPress site?

This got me thinking about responsive web design and bandwidth. I’ve started doing some preliminary reading and googling on this. Here are some links I’ve found:

Design your site for mobile devices first. The buzzword is mobile-first.

(…) more than 12 percent of the world’s Web traffic comes from mobile devices. This fraction is significantly higher in nations with higher smartphone penetration and is expected to increase notably in the next few years as adoption picks up in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

One important task is to optimise images. I found this Smashing Magazine article provided some helpful guidance on responsive image solutions. But minimizing the bandwidth impact of images isn’t easy.

Test your site to see what is affecting page speed. There’s Google’s Site Speed within Google Analytics, Web Page Test and Yslow to help you identify issues.

In my opinion, this list of web design guidelines for low bandwidth still holds true.

Good background article:
How and Why Responsive Design Can Go Wrong

Conclusion: Building websites isn’t getting easier. Ask your developers to search for ways to improve your site’s performance.

Tips? Ideas and suggestions? I appreciate your comments and suggestions to improve.