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With Thanksgiving fast approaching, what better site to ring in the holidays than Epicurious.com? Epicurious is a great place to go for mouth-watering recipes, food and drink etiquette, and gift ideas. To see how well Epicurious fares with user etiquette, we tested the Epicurious.com home page for speed and accessibility. So how did this popular food site do?
We analyzed the home page of Epicurious.com to see how well it complies with the speed guidelines published in our book Speed Up Your Site. This home page was analyzed using our free Web Page Analyzer plus a tool that takes into account dynamically generated content. The results of our analysis are listed in Table 1.
*The download times were measured on a slow Macintosh PowerBook with a fast 56Kbps connection. The first number is the time it takes for useful content to display in seconds. The second figure is the time it takes for the entire page to load (i.e., useful content/entire page)
The total page size of over 212K plus 66 HTTP requests causes an initial load time of 19 seconds on a 56Kbps modem, well above the 2 second guideline we recommend in our book, Speed Up Your Site. As of October 2003, over 59% of users in the US still dial into the Internet at 56Kbps or less. The total load time of 73 seconds (an average of multiple timings) is over 8 times the recommended load time of 8.6 seconds.
These mouse over and out functions are then redefined near the end of the page, like this:
The graphic navigation bars simulate white text on a flat green background. This effect could be done with CSS2-styled text to create near-identical rollovers, including the highlighted active page. Substituting newer standards-based techniques for old-style techniques is a great way to save HTTP requests, while making your pages faster and more accessible.
The Epicurious home page had one of the five key elements typically included in accessible web pages. They use only three ALT attribute values, while the rest are blank. As a result, with images turned off, their page looks like this (see Figure 2).
Note that the DHTML menus still work with images turned off. However, without ALT attribute values behind the menu items, screen readers would have difficultly navigating this site. There were no text link alternatives included within the page.
To improve accessibility convert graphical rollover menus to text and CSS2 for higher speed and better accessibility. The DHTML menus can still key off text menus with the proper technique. For the remaining images, add descriptive alt attribute values to functional images, and blank alt attribute values to non-functional images. Our other suggested solutions can be found in our presidential homepage review.
Size-wise the Epicurious home page weighs in at over 212K after all the dynamically generated ads are accounted for. This is well above the 30K ideal that we recommend in our book, Speed Up Your Site. Be sure that you don't burn your butterball waiting for that special recipe to display.
Andy King is the founder of five developer-related sites including this one, and the author of Speed Up Your Site: Web Site Optimization from New Riders Publishing. He publishes the monthly Bandwidth Report and Speed Tweak of the Week. He enjoys remote photography and immediate gratification.
Any trademark or tradenames used in this article are owned exclusively by their owners and they do not endorse or sponsor this site. Optimization Week and the author are not affilliated with Epicurious.com or CondéNet Inc. All opinions expressed herein are based on information that we believe to be reasonably accurate at the time of publication. If you find any errors or misstatements of fact please contact us.
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Last modified: November 09, 2004