Nick DeNardis

User experience, code, higher education, analytics and accessibility.

Dial Up North

Dialup sucks, everyone knows it, but it is cheap, free in most cases. Recently MichNet cut all its subscribers off of their dial up internet service which Wayne State (opens new window) was part of so we were in the market for a dial up service to connect to the net upnorth (opens new window). I decided on NetZero mainly because it was free. My review of the software is that it Sucks. I have used dialup for a while now upnorth but this service is the pits, the free one installs a toolbar on IE, for a while I could not get any other application to connect to the net besides IE which is a real bummer if you need to use SSH or an IM (opens new window) client. But eventually like magic applications began to come online, I cannot explain it but it made me happy.

It really put things into perspective for me again on how a lot of people still view the net. It was so slow at some times that I eventually disabled images and then things were flying quite well, but it really showed off which developers have the skill to accommodate this slow pace world. Some things I noticed that really helped were:

  • Using a background-color approximately the same color as an image background. This way if the image background does not load then the text on top still have a background color to contrast against.

  • Combining images and use background positioning to put them in place. This dramatically reduces the number of images to load. Like I mentioned before images were the real killer of speed when using dial up. Better yet if you can use background colors instead of images it really speeds things up without loosing design points.

  • Combining Javascript files and using a compressor. This is a no brainier it take almost no effort and helps with slow and fast connections. JS files can get large and they don’t have to be, I recommend using an automated compression tool called Minify (opens new window). Really easy to use and

  • AJAX. It is odd but it really kept me on sites with AJAX for a longer period of time because the site seemed snappier and I didn’t have to wait for the whole page to load over and over again.

  • If you have image/flash ads on your site really sit back and think if slowing down the information on your site to a portion of internet users is really worth the few cents you may get from them clicking on the ads. Content is king, if a dial up user cannot get to your content because of a large flash or image ad on your site they will more than likely go someplace else that is dial up friendly.

Slowing things down really puts the little things into perspective. And it is the little things that matter in life.