What is Website Bandwidth?

Sep 18, 2014 | Web Development

A website’s bandwidth is a measurement of the amount of data a website uses during a specific time period. Bandwidth can be affected by the amount of traffic to a website and the number of resources a website has.


A website's bandwidth is a measurement of how much data is transferred between your server and visitors' devices in a given timeframe. This directly impacts website speed, user experience, and even search engine ranking.

Every business with an online presence needs to understand the importance of bandwidth along with strategies for optimizing its usage. 

Why Does Bandwidth Matter

Think of bandwidth like a highway. A wider highway allows for more vehicles to travel simultaneously, leading to faster commutes. Thankfully, most website hosting platforms can upgrade your bandwidth much faster than it takes to rebuild a highway.  

Unfortunately, if your website has insufficient bandwidth, it poses a significant risk to your business.  

User Experience

Bandwidth directly affects how quickly users see your content. When your website has enough bandwidth to handle the number of users visiting and downloading items from your site, then pages load quickly and visitors stay engaged. Slow loading times, on the other hand, can lead to frustration and a high bounce rate – that’s when a visitor leaves your site without interacting.  

But just how big of a deal can load time be? Pages that load in two seconds or less have an average bounce rate of 9%. If a page takes 5 seconds to load, the bounce rate increases to 38%. 

Search Engine Ranking

Search engines give a leg up to websites that offer a positive user experience. Faster loading speeds result in a better user experience; therefore, faster loading speeds equate to an improved search engine ranking. 

Cost Control

Most web hosting plans cap the bandwidth a website can use within a timeframe. Use more bandwidth than the plan allows, and you might see a significant upcharge. Often, the additional charges will be more costly than if you had upgraded your bandwidth allotment ahead of time. Optimizing bandwidth usage helps you stay on budget and avoid unexpected costs. 

Understanding Bandwidth Usage

The amount of bandwidth your website consumes depends on two main factors: 

Resource Size

Let’s call every element on your website a “resource,” from images, videos, and blog content, to stylesheets and fonts. Some of these resources are visible to users, and some are hidden on the backend, instructing the site how to appear and operate in real-time. Whether or not a resource is visually represented on the site, every single resource is comprised of units of information that must be transferred to visitors’ devices. Larger file sizes translate to more data that needs to be transferred from host to user – and that transfer requires bandwidth. 

Website Traffic:

Bandwidth measures the transfer of information between host and user, so it follows that an uptick in users (traffic) means an uptick in bandwidth usage. And here’s where things get tricky, because your site may have both a maximum bandwidth capacity for simultaneous use – that’s the number of users visiting your site at the same time, as well as a monthly limit on the total bandwidth usage.  

For additional information on how to optimize images, check out our blog and video section.
As always, feel free to contact Informatics with any questions you may have.

Calculating Bandwidth Usage 

You can access developer tools on Google Chrome and see your page weight by disabling the cache and seeing how much data is transferred. Or you can visit a site like Pingdom and run a page weight test. 

If you were to run a test on both the Google and YouTube homepages, you’d see that YouTube far outweighs Google, because hosting videos and dynamic content requires much larger file sizes than a simple search bar. 

Once you’ve determined how much a page weighs, then determine how many typical page views you have. If your image-heavy page weighs 3 MB (megabytes) and you have 200 visitors at a time, then this would require at least 600 MB of bandwidth.  

However, the risk of allocating only the minimum amount of bandwidth is running the risk of your site crashing or slowing down on the day that 201 visitors are on your site. Your calculation also needs to account for any downloads available on your site, and the frequency that users download those files – that’s additional data transfer. 

Best Practices for Website Bandwidth Usage 

Here are our top strategies and tools for optimizing bandwidth: 

Optimize Fonts: While custom fonts can enhance your website's visual appeal, they can also increase bandwidth usage. The great news is there are many web fonts designed for online use. They’re easily read and built for speed. 

Choose High-Quality Images: Images are often the oversized “WIDE LOAD” semi-trucks on the bandwidth highway. This doesn’t mean getting rid of those stunning visuals, but you absolutely must optimize images for the web. This means reducing file sizes without sacrificing significant quality. There are many online tools dedicated to this task. 

Compress Videos: Videos can soak up even more bandwidth than images. Rather than ditching video, you can use compression tools to find a balance that maintains video quality while reducing bandwidth usage. 

Reduce Redirects: Redirects send visitors from one URL to another. While they have their uses, excessive redirects can slow down page load times and increase bandwidth usage. Aim for a clean and efficient URL structure. 

Disable Unused Plugins: If you’re on a DIY web hosting service, like WordPress or Squarespace, there’s a good chance you played around with a variety of plugins, mixing and matching to get the functionality you needed. Did you disable the ones you don’t use? Unused plugins can add unnecessary weight to your website's code and consume bandwidth.  

Leverage Caching: Caching stores frequently accessed website elements on a user's device. This way, subsequent visits don't require downloading the same data again, reducing bandwidth usage. Site owners with backend experience can set how long information is cached on a user’s device.  

Use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs): A CDN stores copies of your website's static content across geographically distributed servers. It doesn’t replace web hosting, but it does allow users to access cached content from the nearest server, reducing the amount of data transferred (bandwidth usage) along with the load time. About 40% of the world’s top 1 million websites utilize CDN technology

Minify Code: Website code can contain unnecessary characters and formatting that inflate file size. Minification removes these elements, resulting in a smaller file size and faster loading times. This should be done with caution or by a web design expert – any time you alter the site’s code, you run the risk of making a critical error. 

Lazy Loading: Why waste bandwidth loading images at the bottom of a 2,000-word blog post when some users are bound to navigate away before they finish? Lazy loading delays the loading of non-critical resources on your webpage until they are scrolled into view by the user. This reduces the initial load time and bandwidth consumption. This is also a more advanced technique for the coders out there. 

It takes time, energy, and money to create a website that works for your business. No matter how beautiful the images are, or how many wonderful products are offered, the website won’t work for you if it doesn’t achieve the speed users expect. Optimize your website’s bandwidth using these techniques, or get expert web design assistance at Informatics today! 

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