What is it: software utility that slims down over-large Web pages so users get to see them quicker.
Applications: speeding up poorly-designed Web sites; imposing
design standards on pages submitted by multiple authors.
Few things are as pointless as a slow Web site. If visitors have to wait a long time to see your pages, they will simply go elsewhere.
Over-sized pages are the most common cause of slow sites. Designers often incorporate too many large images and clever graphic effects, forgetting that most Internet users access sites over relatively slow communications links, rather than loading them directly from disk as a designer does.
With Bandwidth Buster, you can correct this kind of mistake, even after it has been made. This simple utility allows you to see roughly how long your pages will take to download for different speeds of modem and leased line link; you can then reduce the over-sized images and get rid of other wasteful features.
The program runs on Windows-based PCs and is easy to install. It works on pages produced with any Web authoring tool. You can process pages individually or do the whole site as a batch job. By default the pages are put in a new directory so your original version is not affected until you explicitly decide to replace them.
Bandwidth Buster calculates download times for a page by considering both the text on the page itself and any images linked to it. For example, using a standard 28.8Kbits/sec modem, a page that works out at 60Kb, including images, will take 20 seconds to download. This is probably about the maximum you can expect most users to tolerate before giving up.
There are several ways Bandwidth Buster helps to speed things up. One effective measure is to use it to automatically add Height and Width attributes to your images. Pages appear to load faster because it makes the browser display the text first, leaving gaps for images which can be filled in later.
It also converts GIF images to Jpeg format, which is usually much smaller. And, as you can specify the degree of compression, you can also convert existing Jpeg images to smaller ones.
With Bandwidth Buster you can exploit the LOWSRC attribute of the image tag, which is supported by most browsers. This lets you specify a low-res version of an image to display first, with the full version downloading later, once the rest of the page has appeared.
But even with all these measures your site may still be too slow for some users. This may be the case for people accessing the Internet from countries with poor phone systems or from portable PCs via cellular modems. Such users may turn off their browser graphics. The answer is to produce a text-only version of your site and make it available as an option.
Bandwidth Buster can help automate the process by adding ALT attributes to your image tags. It will use your file names as the text that goes in the ALT field.
If you only want to remove just the larger images, Bandwidth Buster can be used for producing a less drastically pruned fast version of your site. You can set a size limit and Bandwidth Buster displays the names of all the image files over this limit. You can then replace only the major offenders with a text description, leaving in smaller images that may have a legitimate purpose.
l For further reading on speeding up Web sites, see Professional Web Site Organization by Scott Ware, #36.99. Published by Wrox Press, www.wrox.com, ISBN 1-861000-74-X
Contact: Sausage Software at
Price: #25; free 14-day trail version is available
Verdict: an extremely useful utility that can undo the design excesses that afflict many Web sites. Once your site is lean and fast you may find you get more visitors.
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