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I remember, during college (2008), my web design professor made a point to keep all images' file size at/below 40K (didn't matter what the dimensions). I have made an effort to do so ever since, especially with mobile optimization being so important.

But now, with broadband and LTE/4G speed internet, larger data plans... and I being out of college for a while... are there any file size (not dimensions) standards out there?

Side note: My project is dealing with product photography. I'm looking at Amazon.com as a benchmark and note that their product images are under 40K (usually) with a zoom image under 100K (usually).

  • One thing to consider: Content Management Systems, such as Wordpress, have become much more important and prominent since 2008. Many of them automatically reduce the dimensions of and compress images for you - especially depending on the context (thumbnail versus full image). Using your example, I'd assume Amazon has automated the process quite a bit. – mappuhn Jun 13 '14 at 16:30
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At the risk of being frowned upon for not answering your question, I would say this: don't worry about file size. Instead, worry about load time. They're certainly directly correlated, but the difference is that load time is universally applicable. A 2MB file might load instantly on a powerful hosting site such as imgur but not on an inexpensive shared hosting service.

To determine your answer, you can run load time benchmarks before you begin designing. Upload a simple page with a few images of varying file sizes to the future site host and record the network performance. You can do this yourself using browser developer tools, or you could use an external service.

Try pushing the limit to see what you can get away with. Keep in mind that downloading a 5MB file is not the same as downloading 10 512KB files because of the overhead involved. If the load time for the entire page is taking a few seconds, it's probably a good idea to reconsider an image-heavy site design.

Your question focuses on images, but there is so much more to optimize beyond that. Google has a great resource available for this kind of thing: Web Performance Best Practices. Not all of the advice there will necessarily apply to your situation. Depending on your expected traffic some of the optimizations might be lead to insignificant performance improvements, but it's a great guide to know what to look out for.

  • Thanks for the great resources! Certainly, Amazon.com has some great CMS and scripts for image compression (I'm not so lucky), and their design leads to great mobile device optimization. With my company working on a new website and design that should cut down load time and improve performance, I'd like to help my team define a standard for images (obviously our own decision)... However, I was first curious if there is such a standard already out there? – heycortney Jun 13 '14 at 16:56

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