I had an interesting conversation the other day regarding file sizes. The person with whom I was speaking had the opinion that since broadband is so common and download speeds are so much faster, one didn’t really need to worry about image or download file sizes. We were talking particularly over some PDFs which were over 5 MB in size.
While it is true that dial-up is all but gone, there is a whole new class of browser which is likely to outstrip even plugged in broadband in just a few years: mobile. According to many predictions, mobile browsing is set to overtake “traditional PC” browsing sometime in the next couple of years. Gartner, a leading prognosticator of things tech, quoted in this story in MobileMarketingWatch, predicts this will happen in 2013.
While mobile browsing on 3G networks is certainly faster than the old dial-up connections, it’s not as fast as WiFi or wired networks. Speeds will certainly increase as 4G networks become more common, but large downloads still will be an issue even for those on the newer networks.
Another consideration to keep in mind is battery life. It certainly takes more juice to download a 5 MB PDF than a 500 KB one. People will certainly notice if their battery dies faster after visiting your site than if they visit your competitor’s.
There are also search engine optimization considerations to keep in mind. Google very publicly lets us know they take download times into account when figuring out page rank. I’ve not heard that Bing does, but I’m willing to bet they do to at least a certain degree.
So, file size does still matter. It will continue to matter for the foreseeable future. Keep that in mind as you put together your marketing materials for download.