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Can you afford to be a peacock?


© December 2005 Tony Lawrence
December 2005

Biologists think that adaptations like the peacock's flashy tail feathers are genetic bragging: in effect the male is saying "my genes are so superior that I can afford to carry around all this useless stuff that would be dangerous for a lesser bird".

A peacock's tail sure is pretty. So are some websites: loaded up with flash animation, fancy javascript tricks, maybe theme background music too. Quite the fancy tailfeathers at some of these sites.

The big sites, the ones that are already popular, the ones everybody just has to visit, those sites can afford this kind of glitz and glamor. You might say that they have the genes to carry all that extra burden.

It is burden; don't think for a minute otherwise. It slows down your site, which may cause visitors to give up if they are not determined to see your pages no matter how slowly they load. There's a logarithmic relationship between the speed your pages load and visitors giving up: if 1% give up after two seconds, maybe 2% after three, it's 4% after four seconds, 8% after five and it might accelerate even faster after that.

All the extra fluff makes it harder for the search engines, too. Most of a fancy page might be invisible to a search engine, so it doesn't get indexed well. Of course the big guys don't care: they get so much juice from the millions of sites pointing at them that losing a chunk to this is unimportant. Their genes are better than yours and mine.

If you are trying to make money from ads, the inability to understand what a page is about penalizes you there, too. Again, the giant sites don't have this problem because they have custom deals with advertisers and probably their own account rep at Google and Yahoo. The right ads will run on their pages; you can be sure of that.

Can you afford to be a peacock?


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